First Sunday of Lent
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Reflection by Fr. Joe Lee
A very overweight man seriously decided to go on a new diet. So, he even changed his usual route to work, to avoid passing his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at work with a luscious coffee cake, and his colleagues asked, “What’s going on?”
He looked a little sheepish. “Purely from habit, I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning. There in the window were these fantastic cakes. Well, I felt God must have let me drive by for a reason.
“So, I prayed, “Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking space right in front of the bakery.” And, sure enough, on the ninth time around the block, there it was!”
Here we have a guy who really was enjoying himself while playing around with temptation—and since a delicious coffee cake is involved, we can all understand and smile along with him! But I do wonder, when was the last time you heard someone seriously discuss the struggle they were having with a temptation? To be human is to be imperfect; we are still a work in process within God’s hands. But by “temptation,” I’m referring to the urge to say or do or dwell on something that leads us away from what God wills and hopes for us.
Today we get back to the basics by starting that journey through Lent to Easter. Lent isn’t a time of “bad news” while we wait for the “good news” of Easter. For us who belong to Christ, it’s a time of grace to pause, go deeper, and learn how to recognize our own particular temptations, as we see how Adam, Eve, and Jesus struggled with their own human temptations.
At first, Adam and Eve treated temptation as we often do. All that mattered was that the apple looked very tasty, and the allure of doing the one thing they were told not to do was just too hard to resist. But neither Eve nor Adam seemed to think that just eating an apple could amount to much—so they had no fear, no respect for the promise they’d made to God. And they even seemed content with their blindness.
Like Adam and Eve, it seems, we hardly know how to recognize real temptation. We live in situations that we know in our guts are subtly tempting us to make bad choices—maybe it’s the internet sites we visit or the friends we hang out with. But instead of “calling a spade a spade,” we start to think every option is equally good. Eve probably said to Adam, “It’s all good!”! Yes, there’s an appropriate use for that phrase—and God has already said it, at the moment of creation. But temptation refers to being led away from the good, and toward the evil. Sin starts with not recognizing temptations for what they are.
The Garden of Eden is the image of how God first brought humans into that same deep intimacy, creating a community of love with God’s own Self and all creatures. Whenever we bring this intimacy to others, we are acting out of our true identity as sons and daughters of God. We are imitating Christ. Knowing our true identity inspires us to resist the evil of selfishness and make decisions that benefit the whole creation.
Embrace the gift of Lent, which gives us space to refocus our heart on our true identity: we are sisters and brothers of the whole creation, bonded in the unity, intimacy, and self-giving love of God. No evil can change that.
Fr. Joe Lee