1st Sunday of Lent, Year A
What are You Doing for Lent?
Recently, I found last year’s Little Black Book for Lent tucked away on my bookshelf. It had challenged me so much that I dog-eared numerous pages and saved it. The first section explored Jesus’s temptation in the desert as the foundation of Lent in the Catholic faith. The devil dangles his temptations in the form of material goods and comfort, power, and the worship of idols, all issues I struggle with regularly.
“Lent,” the book posits, “is about making choices.” Those choices, during Lent they are temptations, have been designed just for me, designed by the same devil who tempted Jesus. He knows my weaknesses and he knows how well I am able to justify my decisions. The devil, the book goes on to say, isn’t described in the gospels. That’s because he looks different for each of us. What tempts me may not tempt you. The other big thing: temptation never stops. At the end, “the devil left him for awhile” (v.11). The implication is, even for Jesus the temptation will return.
So, if the temptations are just going to come back, why do we put ourselves through the “agony” of Lent? Why do we keep trying?
Our successes build and strengthen us. When we turn our back on one thing, we chalk up a success, however minor. As those victories accumulate, they shape us. Yes, temptations will keep coming, and, yes, they will be more subtle and harder to resist, but when we have established our identity as a disciple of Christ, we don’t have to face them alone. We have company on the journey, and in a sense, more ammunition to use against them. We may become more adept at recognizing them as temptations or we may have surrounded ourselves with people who are able to help us see them for what they really are, pitfalls rather than opportunities.
As I thought about what I wanted to do for Lent, I considered all my usual disciplines: sweets, alcohol, more disciplined prayer time, maybe even—horror!—giving up coke. As I fingered the red aluminum can during my morning prayer time, I sighed. It should probably be coke—that would be good for my teeth and for my waistline. But coke is an “addiction” I would like to be free from. I don’t know what God has in mind. It has never occurred to me to ask Him. The very idea makes me a little nervous—who knows what He’ll come up with.
I’ve taken the decision for my Lenten discipline to God in prayer. I’m writing this a few weeks before Lent and I don’t know what I’m going to give up or take on this year. I’m sure God will pick something challenging I didn’t even know I needed to work on. I’m not really sure I want to find out. But I hope I can make the choice to listen to God on this one, and not follow my own desires under the guise of faithfulness. I hope I use this Lent to strengthen my identity as a disciple of Christ and rely on His strength to help face whatever the devil dangles before me.