The Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4, 1-11 this year) is always an account of Jesus being tempted in the desert. This is by design – not by accident or simple repetition. We begin the season of Lent by following Jesus, by confronting temptation.
What is temptation? It is a strong urge or desire to have or do something, especially something that is bad, wrong, or unwise. And that is why temptation is usually connected with sin: we flirt with something we know is not good for us and we risk falling. We eventually convince ourselves that “what we are tempted by” not only is not wrong – but it might actually be good, something we truly need and deserve. What folly!
Sadly, in an “age of relativism” as permissive as our own, we are quickly losing a sense of personal sin. This is as true of us as it is of the culture in which we live.
Lent, then, is a time to be more honest with ourselves and with God about how we are living and to ask for the forgiveness each of us needs. Lent offers us the following “tools.” Prayer – speaking from our hearts and listening carefully, growing closer to the God in whose image we are made. Fasting – doing without, learning to see temptation for what it is and to heighten our awareness of what is real in our lives. And charity, caring for the poor (almsgiving) – giving generously, finding peace, not in satisfying ourselves and our own desires – but in serving the needs of others. These are the “tools” Lent offers us to strengthen us, to strengthen each of us, in the face of the temptations from which we pray to be delivered. “Our Father ….”