A Cycle – 1st Sunday of Lent 23

A Cycle – 1st Sunday of Lent 23

Mt. 4:1-11

When I was young, Lent always made me feel inadequate because I always felt I had failed what was God expected of me.  The rest of the church year was not much better because the Pre Vatican II church kept telling me I was a sinner.  But as Lent approached the hope of redemption by repentance and sacrifice was the best chance I had to show God I could do better.  I could be worthy; I could avoid sin and my Lenten sacrifices were seen as a means of finding some self discipline.  A change that would carry over into my entire spiritual life.  The problem came when, less than a week into Lent, I would break my stated sacrifice and I would consume or stop doing exactly what I had vowed to do over the next forty days.

I was no different than Adam and Eve.  I had internally, mentally, and spiritually committed to pleasing God by avoiding sin and changing my behavior by doing something during Lent. Like them, I just could not avoid eating the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden.  As a youth it could have been giving up candy, television, soft drinks or going to daily mass or praying the rosary.  One thing and within a week I failed and did not do what I had committed to do.  I had no discipline not because the lure of what I gave up was too great a temptation.  It was mostly because my desire was not strong enough or my commitment not strong enough, or my resolve to change was not sincere.

Now that I am not a child, I understand something other than a weakness in me was my reason for failing.  It was more the case that my intent was based in the flesh. Meaning, was I doing something expecting some reward or praise from God. My intent was not to give glorify God it was to appease God.  Adam and Eve ate the fruit because they believed they would be like God. What they failed to realize was they were already like God.  Formed in his image; created by God sinless and sharing intimacy with God.  They were deceived by Satan appealing to their humanity to believe they were less than they were created to be.  That was how they were deceived, and they did desire to be pleasing.  Therein lies every failure of ours to live up to the standard God has told us He requires of us. To be “Holy as the Lord God is Holy.”

Lent was never intended to make us feel guilty but it was intended to bring us closer to the Father.  The Father who was waiting and watching for His Like Prodigal son. A Father who is wondering, waiting for us to show up and acknowledge how far we are from what He desires us to become.  Lent is a time for us to realize who we are and reorient ourselves. To realize how much we do vacillate in our belief in who we are because what we desire to do comes from the interior self, the flesh. That is the desire which motivates us and is fueled by what we believe we are doing something for God.  In reality the root of that sacrifice is far from what should motivate us this Lent.  It is not what we can do for God. It is what God has done for us.

What should motivate us is a desire to glorify God and making the reason for our sacrifices focused on God and not on ourselves.  Our motivation to do anything during Lent needs to acknowledge God’s goodness, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, and His gift of Jesus Christ.  We do need to leave behind this immature thinking about pleasing God by what we sacrifice. We do need to know in our hearts how pleased God is with us and how to simply express our desire to become what he says we are – his delight. We need to give God our hearts.  How can we make that transition?

Jesus over the last few weeks has been telling us to stop measuring ourselves by the minimum of the standard set by the law.  The law can only define what sin is and it will never help us overcome sin.  But Jesus comes along and tells us that minimum standard is just that the minimum. It is a starting point for us to grow in holiness.  That is why looking at a woman lustfully is defined by Jesus as adultery.  That is why Jesus tells us it not an eye for an eye but we must turn the other cheek.  To meet that standard in our lives will not happen by us “doing some Lenten sacrifice” and then return to our lives before Lent.  Believing we have accomplished a great feat in the eyes of God. 

No, Jesus is telling us Lent is the first step in a journey back to becoming who God created us to be.  Lent is the beginning of a journey of transformation that will take a life time of surrender to God and allowing the Spirit to change our entire way of thinking, acting and worshipping.  The question for us is how much do we want what God is offering us.  Life eternal, lived in a manner that acknowledges He has forgiven us the moment we take a step toward him.  Acknowledging in union with the Spirit we can overcome sin, temptation and help others discover the love, mercy and forgiveness of God.

Lent is a time to take the cover off our sin and allow the waters of salvation to wash us clean.  Lent is a time to stop hiding from God and stand in front of Him like the woman caught in adultery and listen to Him say – I do not condemn you, go and give witness to my love.  It is time to answer the question Jesus asked Paul on the road to Damascus – Why are you so blinded by what you perceive me to be and fail to see me each day I come to you.   Lent should be an encounter with Jesus that changes us and moves us to seek more of God.  It is about experiencing the presence of God.  In what ever you do this lent keep your eyes upon Jesus and He can and will reveal the Father to you

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