Deut. 26: 4-10, Rom. 10: 8-13, Luke 4: 1-13.
1. Christianity is not the only Religion that takes the Spiritual side of life seriously. Many religions have a defined period (of days or weeks), using differing practices to help people understand and grow in a set of beliefs and to get in touch with the MEANING OF MANS EXISTENCE.
-The Muslims have the high feast of RAMADAN. This feast is held in Aug-Sept moon cycle for about 28 days. It includes sunrise to sunset Fasting and Penance from foods, medicine, smoking and even sex. There are harsh penalties, both monetary and incarceration, for violators. Ramadan generally celebrates Allah’s Revelations to Mohammed, but the importance is to rid oneself from their sins.
-The Bahai Faith has 19 days in March set aside for sunrise to sunset fasting. The goal is for personal SPIRITUAL RECUPERATION.
– The Eastern Religions like Hindu to Taoism attempt to seek the MIDDLE PATH. From day to day, they seek to avoid Excesses in life like Food, while at the same time, maintaining there is no need to fast, as that is excess in the opposite direction. It’s the Balance or middle path in all things they seek, which is perfection. Yet, even at that, they do have days of FASTING and ritual WASHINGS in their Holy Rivers, like the Ganges in India, to take away sin.
2. In the verses from Deuteronomy, we have a case of how the Hebrews were organized to show reverence toward God. The simple ritual prescribed was given to the Hebrews by Moses as the feast of ‘Harvest Thanksgiving’. The people once settled in the Promised Land were to show their gratitude, through an offering of the first fruits, to the good God who brought them out of the slavery of Egypt and gave them land to call home.
-The Jewish people developed many other ritual celebrations like: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. These included varied forms of Prayer, Penance, Meals and Sacrifices or holocausts to show attitudes of dependence and thanksgiving to God and atonement for their sins.
3. Christians, but especially Orthodox and Catholics, have our different days or periods of Fasting and Penance. Our days of penance were instigated to prepare us to celebrate the different manifestations of God’s goodness to mankind.
Every FRIDAY is designed be at the least a voluntary day of Fasting or Penance, that really should not be taken lightly. A holy Friday, is to keep us connected to the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross.
We have the 4 weeks of ADVENT which call us to ‘Prepare’ for the COMINGS of Christ, through sacrifice and a change of heart. But most notably we have our GREAT SEASON OF LENT. Lent is supposed to be an ALL OUT EFFORT to structure our spiritual lives to overcome the CALL and PULL of the physical, secular and materialistic in our lives, which if they have a stake in us, make it hard to know and fully love God and our neighbor.
And the building tools we use is the WORD of God and from that the LENTEN PILLARS of FASTING, PRAYER AND ALMSGIVING. Yet all to often people avoid LENT because of poor understanding. Many people fail to understand these Pillars; saying Fasting between meals is TOO HARD, all that extra pray and study is NOT NEEDED or what GOOD can come from giving up something as small as chocolate.
4. Lent has a GOAL of SELFMASTERY. We are to BUILD godly lives, through the WORD that starts in the three important avenues of our lives as defined from our Gospel of today. And with Jesus, as our model in faith, He helps us to READ the plans and use the correct tools to put the Spiritual over the Physical in our lives.
A. When the Devil Tempts Jesus to turn STONES INTO BREAD, Scripture WARNS against letting our bodily desires getting all the pleasures and comforts that we can get out of life. And to guard against letting our DESIRES resent any curtailment of these desires even on the part of God who is our Creator and Benefactor.
B. When the Devil takes Jesus to the TOP of the MOUNTAIN and offers him all that he sees, Scripture is telling us how we are often tempted to use our gifts of intelligence and freewill to look for power in family, work or social circles. Or Power in political or economic circles over our fellowman. We want to be better off than others in this world, but our purpose in life while it is to help ourselves, it is also to help our fellowman to the better life.
C. Finally, when the Devil takes Jesus to the PARAPET of the TEMPLE and tempts Him to throw Himself off, telling Him the angels will save Him, Scripture is telling us all things in life, especially how so many people can be fully occupied in the mad rush after pleasure and power that we leave no time to devote to the one thing that matters, the attainment of eternal life.
5. With this example given us by Christ of Fasting and Fighting the Temptation of the Devil, no Christian can or should expect to travel the road to heaven without meeting obstacles and temptations. Hence again, the need for our PILLARS to a GREAT LENT: Take notice of all the ways the Catholic Church offers us (Mass, Sacraments, Prayer Groups,
Charitable Need) a chance to work the Pillars. We must remember, God has made us not only his Chosen People but his sons—he has promised us not a strip of earthly territory in which we could be happy for our few earthly years, but the eternal kingdom of heaven. While He sent Moses his servant to liberate the Israelites from Egypt—he has sent his divine Son to liberate us from the slavery of Satan and Sin.
6. It is nice to know the world over is SEARCHING for God and ways to lead a GOOD LIFE, but understanding that LENT, as a Catholic, is now my turn to get FOCUSED and make a serious attempt at changing my life, I can tell you I have already begun. How about YOU!?