How Has You’re our Lent Going?

Gospel LK 4:1-13 http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031019.cfm

How has your lent been going? Have you honored your commitments? Have your practices of prayer, fasting, and charity been successful?

Have you found that what started with commitment and determination is now feeling like exercise? What was initially a beautiful garment adorned in anticipatory joy now looks a little bit used, with frayed edges, and subtle stains of doubt and discouragement.

Or, maybe everything is going great! Your prayer life is flourishing, your fasting is rewarding, and your almsgiving is overflowing. Despite the somber Liturgical season, you are finding personal satisfaction through self-sacrifice and each day brings new challenges offering greater reward.

Whether in a state of discouragement or joy, the truth is you are exactly where God intends you to be. If you entered into Lent with both intent and purpose, no matter how grand or how moderate, then whatever your current condition you are exactly where God wants you to be.

The Gospel reads, “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.”

Jesus did not wander into the desert because he was lost. He did not accidently follow the wrong road because he was too full of pride to ask directions. No. Jesus “was led by the Spirit” and was exactly where he was supposed to be, doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

Recognizing that truth helps bring into focus our current reality. We too have been led to this Liturgical season. We did not get lost and accidently stumble upon Ash Wednesday. We did not blindly follow “Siri” and accidentally find ourselves grumpy because it’s been 5 days since our last piece of chocolate, cup of coffee, or glass of beer.

We are here at this place and at this time because this is exactly where God wants us to be.

The road we are traveling, which began on Ash Wednesday and will end on Easter day, is not an easy road. It is a road will not be traveled quickly. It has speed bumps, yield signs, and traffic lights that take forever to change, and we are all traveling this road together with differing degrees of success.

As recorded in today’s Gospel reading there are 3 specific temptations that Jesus had to overcome. Though these 3 temptations were not the only temptations Jesus faced, these 3 are recorded for our benefit because in these temptations we can discover what we must be on the lookout for as we progress through this Lenten season.

The first temptation is the love of pleasure.

According to Luke, Satan presented Jesus this temptation when he was hungry and alone. Jesus was lacking in physical pleasure and comfort and that is exactly where Satan chose to attack.

At some point, most likely in the early stages of our Lenten experience, we will be tempted to succumb to our physical discomforts and lack of variety. We will tire of eating, or not eating, the same foods. We will tire of doing, or not doing, the same things. We will get bored, uncomfortable, and will crave something new or different. We must be on the look out for those moments, because it is during those moments when the tempters voice will fill our ears and our thoughts. Be aware and resist.

The second temptation for which we must be on guard is the love of possessions.

Satan offered Jesus all the world and all that it contained. A lie indeed, 1) because creation is not Satan’s to dispose of, and 2) Satan is a liar. However, the temptation to possess is a very real and tricky temptation.

We like to possess things because we want to control things. The more we possess the more we control, and the more we control the more significant we feel. During our Lenten journey we will be tempted to abandon our commitments for the illusion of control. Be aware and resist.

The Third the temptation is the love of glory.

Jesus was tempted by Satan to throw himself from the parapet of the temple trusting that God would not let him come to harm. This temptation, simply stated, is the temptation to manipulate God and to receive the glory that would bring.

During this Lenten season we will find ourselves tempted to manipulate God. We will add up the costs of our sacrifices and then present them as a bill, expecting full payment. What glory that would be, would it not? What glory to finally get physical, tangible, demonstratable evidence of God’s approval of our sacrifice. Of course I am speaking sarcastically, yet, I argue, that we all recognize that temptation all too well. Be aware and Resist.

Lent, as a liturgical season, can be a season of encouragement or a season of disappointment. Which, if we are honest, is exactly like any other time of the year. However, Lent is designed by Holy Mother Church, through the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, to bring us into a deeper, more refined, and holy relationship with God and with one another.

Wherever you are at this day, in whatever emotional state, rest assured that you are in the very hands of God. Where you are now is not where God wants you to be 6 weeks from now. I encourage you my sisters and brothers to be aware and to resist.

Has anyone ever experienced a disappointment?

Gospel of Luke 3:1-6

Has anyone else ever experienced a disappointment?  I have.

Speaking for myself I have a tendency to exaggerate the potential benefits of an anticipated experience, encounter, or event.  This is something I have done since I was a child.  I have a very vivid early childhood memory around a family trip to visit my grandparents who were living in Colorado at the time.  I remember being so excited about the visit that I had convinced myself that mygrandparents were going to meet us somewhere along the journey.  There is no rational reason for my expectation, but I do remember that every time we stopped, no matter the location, I fully expected to see my grandparents there waiting for me.  In fact, I had so convinced myself of this that at one rest area I ran up to an elderly couple crying out “grandpa, grandma” only to discover they were not at all my grandpa nor my grandma.  This particular experience embedded itself into memory not only because of the embarrassment I experienced, but more sodue to the disappointment.  I rememberbeing very disappointed that my grandparents had not “come out” to meet me…atsome random rest stop…100 miles from their home.

Unfortunately, that is not the last time in my life when I created and allowed unrealistic and fantastical expectations to distort my thoughts or dictate my behavior.  I have done this many times.  I have done this with jobs, promotions, vacations, with things, and I have done this, far too many times, with my relationships.  In the anticipation of something wonderful I have many times distorted that wonder with unfounded desires.

In today’s Gospel Luke confronts expectations.  He challenges his readers to examine their expectations about the Messiah.  The Messiah who was promised to restore Israel and save the world.  The Messiah that Israel and the rest of the world were waiting with great expectation.

Luke challenges his readers expectations by building a bridge.  A bridge that brought the prophecy of the Old Testament across the chasm of anticipation and places the realization of the expected Messiah in a specific time and in a specific place.  This bridge on which our expectations traveled is called John the Baptist, the desert voice calling Israel to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

In addition, Luke also identifies the geo-political and religious leaders of that time, thereby, establishing a marker, a moment, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his mission.  His mission to fulfill all the promises of God.

What are these promises?  These promises are found in the words of Isaiah which Luke cites in his Gospel.  This central section of the Book of Isaiah, from which Luke quotes, has been titled by some scholars as “The Book of the Consolation of Israel.”  These consolations were given to Israel in a time of exile, a period of time when hope and expectation where all that remained of a once and great nation. These consolations point to an entire symphony of biblical promises to be fulfilled by the Lord.

The Lord will:

  • Rescue the poor and oppressed (Is 41:17; 42:7; 49:13
  • Pour out the Spirit (44:3),
  • Restore Israel (43:5-7; 48:20; 49:5),
  • Come to Jerusalem as King (40:9-10; 52:7-10),
  • Destroy his enemies (41:11-13; 47:1-15),
  • Show mercy to his children (43:25; 44:22; 55:7).
  • Be the Messianic Servant
    • whose mission is to bless the nations (42:1-4; 49:1-6)
    • atone for sin (50:4-9; 52:13-53:12)

All of the expectations, these promises, contained in the Book of Isaiah, which Luke so beautifully brings forward to a time and space when he identifies John the Baptist as the; voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Yet, what meaning can we, the modern-day followers of Christ, hope to find in this Gospel?  What can we, as believers in the witnesscarried down to us through the Apostles and Christ’s Church, hope to claim inthese promises?  I challenge you mybrothers and sisters in Christ that for us; because our faith is firmly founded in our Lord’s 1st coming, and that our hope blossoms in the belief that he is coming again, then our expectations for the future fulfillment of the promises of God are manifested in our actions.

Simply put… are you manifesting the promises of God in your life.  I ask you to examine your life in the light of the promises of God.  Are you responding to the poor and oppressed?  Defending their causes?  Does the goodness of God in you effect and impact the world around you?  Are you merciful?  Are others blessed by you and because of you?

Again, if we truly believe that Jesus Christ came once, as a man for mankind, and we rest our hope that he will soon come again, then ought we not be engaged in his work.  Our work is too continue the work to which we were assigned by the great commission of our Lord, to go and make disciples of all the world through the preaching, teaching, and most importantly living the Gospel.