Lent 1st Sunday A - Temptations of Jesus

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis we have the story of the tempting of Adam and Eve and in the Gospel we have the story of the tempting of Jesus. These are two sophisticated stories, and are not meant to be taken literally. They are essentially about making choices. The reading from Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were given the possibility of making a choice. The basic fundamental choice was to live for God, dependant and obedient to His will, or to say 'no' to God, severing themselves from him and live in the illusion that they did not need God. They were tempted by the serpent, the symbol of Satan. They were tempted through deceit. They were tempted to believe that they could be Gods themselves. They disobeyed; they sinned and had to face the consequences of their choice.

An American Indian was giving testimony about temptations. He said, "My brothers, I seem to have two dogs fighting in my heart. One is a very good dog, a beautiful white dog. He is always watching over my best interests. The other is a very bad dog, a black dog, who is always trying to destroy a lot of things that I want to see built up. These dogs give me a lot of trouble because they are always quarreling and fighting." One of his hearers asked him. "Which one wins?" The young man said immediately, "The one to which I say: 'sic em'." -Shades of: "If you walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.."
- H.A. Ironside in 'Tonic for the Heart'
In the second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans Paul reminds us of the social consequences of sin. Sin is never a private affair affecting only myself. When we sin all our relationships get affected: our relationships with our inner self, our relationships with our brothers and sisters, our relationship with our God and our relationship with nature and the world in which we live. The harmony is shattered and division and disintegration sets in. However, Paul reminds us that just as Sin came into the world through the disobedience of one man, Adam, so through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, forgiveness and reconciliation is granted to us.  In the gospel we are reminded that just as the first Adam was tempted, so the new Adam, Jesus Christ was also tempted. Just as Adam and Eve had to make a choice so Jesus to had to make choices and re affirm his obedience to doing the will of his Father. Unlike Adam he made an irrevocable decision to do the Father's will no matter what the consequences. In today's gospel we see Jesus being tempted by Satan. It is a common practice for great religious leaders to go to a remote place to be alone with God and their own thoughts as they prepare to undertake some new direction or vocation in life. Jesus prepares him self by forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert. The prayer and fasting is not an end in itself but a preparation for his mission. Our own prayer and fasting during this season of lent is not an end in itself but a preparation for our conversion and reconciliation with God.

Is it a saint or a horse?
Once upon a time a very earnest young man visited a famous rabbi. He told the rabbi he wanted to become a rabbi and asked for his advice. It was winter time. The winter stood at the window looking out into the yard while the rabbinical candidate gave him a glowing account of his piety and learning. The young man said, "You see, Rabbi, I always dress in spotless white like the sages of old. I never drink any alcoholic beverages; only water ever passes my lips. I perform numerous penances. For instance, I always carry sharp-edged nails inside my shoes to mortify me. Even in the coldest weather, I lie naked in the snow to punish my flesh. And to complete my penance, I take a dozen lashes every day on my bare back." As the young man spoke, a stable boy led a white horse into the yard and took him to the water trough. The horse drank his fill of water, and having done so rolled in the snow, as horses sometimes do. "Just look!" cried the rabbi. "That animal too is dressed in white. It also drinks nothing but water, has nails in his shoes and rolls naked in the snow. Also rest assured, it gets its daily ration of lashes on the rump from its master. Now I ask you, is it a saint or is it a horse?" -The point the rabbi was making was that penance is not an end in itself. What is the purpose of penance? It is not meant to undo the past -the past is done. Nor is it meant to persuade God to erase our sins and forego the punishment we deserve for them. We undertake penance to acknowledge we are sinners and we desire to change our lives.
- Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

Satan represents the power and the embodiment of forces that go against Jesus trying to dissuade him from his mission, which required total obedience to God. Temptation puts subtle pressure to deviate, to give in to bodily needs and pleasures and seek our will rather than the will of God. The temptations of Jesus were real and he had to struggle against giving in to them. His tempting was not a one-off event. He was tempted several time and the temptations would continue right through his life -till the very end. His victory in the desert was not the winning of the war, but merely the winning of the battle.  For Jesus the temptations came in various forms and were related to the happenings of his life. After fasting for several days Jesus was hungry and was tempted to use his power to satisfy his bodily needs. "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves." But Jesus was not to be put off, he used the word of God to ward off temptation. "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Again he was tempted by Satan to throw himself from the parapet of the temple and force the hand of God into doing something dramatic and flashy. Jesus rejects the sensational way as not God's way. "You will not put the Lord God to the test." Still Satan never gives up, he never sleeps, he has yet another try: "I will give you all the kingdoms of the world if you will fall at my feet and worship me." Jesus is tempted by the offer of power and possessions, but he rejects Satan once more with the power of the word of God. "Be off Satan! Scripture say, 'You must worship your God and serve Him alone!"  Like Jesus, we too will be tempted throughout our lives. Temptations by themselves are not bad; it is how we confront them that makes all the difference. By constantly struggling with temptations we become stronger. Each time one is tempted to do evil but does good, one becomes stronger. The battle over evil is never over as long as we are here on earth. However we cannot fight temptations all by ourselves we need God's help. Firstly we need to acknowledge our weakness and sinfulness in the words of today's response psalm: "Have mercy on us, O Lord for we have sinned." Secondly, we can find our strength and response to the wiles of Satan by having recourse to the Word of God.
It was F.B. Meyer, I believe, who once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
Stephen Brown, Christianity Today, April 5, 1993, p. 17.

A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
1. Materialism.
2. Pride.
3. Self-centeredness.
4. Laziness.
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
7. Envy.
8. Gluttony.
9. Lying.
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
Discipleship Journal, November / December, 1992.

We can supplement our accountability to others by reading slowly through literature designed to challenge our Christian maturity. Consider, as an example, these questions related to sexual purity that I had to read carefully as I read Kent Hughes' Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome:
1. Are we being desensitized by the present evil world? Do things that once shocked us now pass us by with little notice? Have our sexual ethics slackened?
2. Where do our minds wander when we have no duties to perform?
3. What are we reading? Are there books or magazines or files in our libraries that we want no one else to see?
4. What are we renting at the local video stores? How many hours do we spend watching TV? How many adulteries did we watch last week? How many murders? How many did we watch with our children?
5. How many chapters of the Bible did we read last week?
Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way, Navpress, 1989, p. 120-121.

Historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. "Captain, give me a gun!" he shouted. "This fight ain't got any rear!"
Daily Walk, July 10, 1993.

Toad baked some cookies. "These cookies smell very good," said Toad. He ate one. "And they taste even better," he said.  Toad ran to Frog's house. "Frog, Frog," cried Toad, "taste these cookies that I have made."
Frog ate one of the cookies, "These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!" said Frog.
Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. "You know, Toad," said Frog, with his mouth full, "I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick."
"You are right," said Toad. "Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop." Frog and Toad ate one last cookie.  There were many cookies left in the bowl.
"Frog," said Toad, "let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop." Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie.
"We must stop eating!" cried Toad as he ate another.
"Yes," said Frog, reaching for a cookie, "we need willpower."
"What is willpower?" asked Toad.
"Willpower is trying hard not to do something you really want to do," said Frog.
"You mean like trying hard not to eat all these cookies?" asked Toad.
"Right," said Frog.
Frog put the cookies in a box. "There," he said. "Now we will not eat any more cookies."
"But we can open the box," said Toad.
"That is true," said Grog.
Frog tied some string around the box. "There," he said. "Now we will not eat any more cookies."
"But we can cut the string and open the box." said Toad.
"That is true," said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf.
"There," said Frog. "Now we will not eat any more cookies."
"But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box," said Toad.
"That is true," said Frog.
Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice. "Hey, birds, here are cookies!" Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.
"Now we have no more cookies to eat," said Toad sadly.
"Not even one."
"Yes," said Frog, "but we have lots and lots of willpower."
"You may keep it all, Frog," said Toad. "I am going home now to bake a cake."
Ray & Anne Ortlund, Renewal, Navpress, 1989,  p. 73-74.

In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the "sundew." It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim.
Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992.

What is temptation? Seduction to evil, solicitation to wrong.  It stands distinguished from trial thus: trial tests, seeks to discover the man's moral qualities or character; but temptation persuades to evil, deludes, that it may ruin. The one means to undeceive, the other to deceive. The one aims at the man's good, making him conscious of his true moral self; but the other at his evil, leading him more or less unconsciously into sin. God tries; Satan tempts.
Fairbain, quoted in The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, J.D. Pentecost, p. 99.

While my wife and I were shopping at a mall kiosk, a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. My eyes followed her.
Without looking up from the item she was examining, my wife asked, "Was it worth the trouble you're in?"
Drew Anderson (Tucson, AZ), Reader's Digest.

In China's later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, "There's no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know."
"You say that no one will know," Yang Zhen replied, "but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know too."
Wang Mi was ashamed, and backed down. Subsequently Yang Zhen's integrity won increasing recognition, and he rose to a high post in the central government.
Human nature is weak, and we tend to yield to temptation when we think nobody can see us. In fact, if there was no police force, many people would not hesitate to steal. This is not to say that when we do something bad, we feel no compunction at all, just that man is weak and prone to yield to temptation. But even if nobody witnesses our sins, and not a soul knows of them, we cannot hide the truth from the eyes of our conscience. In the end, what is important is not that other people know, but that we ourselves know. When Yang Zhen told Wang Mi that "Heaven will know," he meant that the gods would know what he had done: in other words, his own conscience.
A person who sins neither in thought nor deed, and is fair and just, gains enormous courage and strength. As a leader, you need courage born of integrity in order to be capable of powerful leadership. To achieve this courage, you must search your heart, and make sure that your conscience is clear and your behavior is beyond reproach.
Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic in his book Velvet Glove, Iron Fist (PHP Institute, Tokyo), Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.

In June 1989 a 19-year-old German named Mathias Rust created quite a stir when he flew a Cessna 172 airplane more than 400 miles into Soviet airspace. Rust's five-hour trip ended when he landed his plane near the Kremlin in Moscow. Soviet officials then scrambled to find out how a teenage could slip past their air defenses. Apparently radar had picked up the craft, but it was presumed to be a Soviet plane and no attempt was made to identify it. Later, air force jets twice flew around the intruding Cessna, but air defense commanders showed "intolerable unconcern and indecision about cutting short the flight of the violator plane without resorting to combat means," the investigation concluded.
Today in the Word, June 6, 1992.

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
Margaret Thatcher.

There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.
Mark Twain.

John Piper says that sin (lust for example) "gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be more happy if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier."
E. Lutzer, Putting Your Past Behind You, Here's Life, 1990, p.54.

Children grow up with teddy bears and often figure that since the toys are cuddly, the real things might also be so. In 1990 two boys scaled the fence at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and went into the polar bear compound. The next day they were found dead. Your pet sin can kill!
Source Unknown.

A scene from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress portrays Interpreter bringing Christian to a wall where fire is blazing from a grate.  A man is trying to douse the fire with water. Then Interpreter shows Christian the other side of the wall, where another man is secretly pouring oil on the fire to keep it ablaze. Interpreter says, "You saw the man standing behind the wall to maintain the fire, teaching you that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul." Satan tries to quench faith, but Christ keeps it alive.
Pilgrim's Progress.

As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West.  Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to break this bridge?" "No," the builder replied, "I'm trying to prove that the bridge won't break." In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren't designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn't.
Today in the Word, March 14, 1991.

What settings are you in when you fall?  Avoid them. What props do you have that support your sin? Eliminate them.  What people are you usually with?  Avoid them.  There are two equally damning lies Satan wants us to believe: 1) Just once won't hurt. 2) Now that you have ruined your life, you are beyond God's use, and might as well enjoy sinning.
"Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin."
Charles Spurgeon.

On the TV show "Hee Haw," Doc Campbell is confronted by a patient who says he broke his arm in two places. The doc replies, "Well then, stay out of them places!"
He may have something there. We cannot regularly put ourselves in the face of temptation and not be affected. When faced with the problem of temptation, we need to take the good doctor's advice and "stay out of them places."
Source Unknown.

It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.
Benjamin Franklin

Satan will seldom come to a Christian with a gross temptation. A green log and a candle may be safely left together, but a few shavings, some small sticks and then larger, and you may bring the green log to ashes.
John Newton.

When you flee temptation, be sure you don't leave a forwarding address.
Source Unknown.

Reports the DENVER POST: "Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays, electric fences, and 'scare-coyotes.' She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs--fifty last year alone. "Then she discovered the llama--the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama...'Llamas don't appear to be afraid of anything,' she said. 'When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they won't have anything to do with that... Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away.'"
Apparently llamas know the truth of what James writes: "Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you" (4:7). The moment we sense his attack through temptation is the moment we should face it and deal with it for what it is.
Barry McGee.

The thing that makes men and rivers crooked is following the line of least resistance.
Source Unknown.

Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ringtailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it's simple. They've been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can't get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him.
Source Unknown.

"Fire tries Iron, and temptation tries a just man."
Thomas A. Kempis.

Where there is no temptation, there can be little claim to virtue.
C. Swindoll, Sanctity of Life, Word, 1990, p. 51.

The Great Wall of China is a gigantic structure which cost an immense amount of money and labor. When it was finished, it appeared impregnable. But the enemy breached it. Not by breaking it down or going around it. They did it by bribing the gatekeepers.
Source Unknown.

Ronald Meredith, in his book, Hurryin' Big for Little Reasons, describes one quiet night in early spring: Suddenly out of the night came the sound of wild geese flying. I ran to the house and breathlessly announced the excitement I felt. What is to compare with wild geese across the moon? It might have ended there except for the sight of our tame mallards on the pond. They heard the wild call they had once known. The honking out of the night sent little arrows of prompting deep into their wild yesterdays. Their wings fluttered a feeble response. The urge to fly--to take their place in the sky for which God made them-- was sounding in their feathered breasts, but they never raised from the water. The matter had been settled long ago. The corn of the barnyard was too tempting! Now their desire to fly only made them uncomfortable. Temptation is always enjoyed at the price of losing the capacity for flight. 
Jim Moss.

Iron Eyes Cody is a native American actor who once did a TV spot for the Keep America Beautiful campaign. He was an Indian drifting alone in a canoe. As he saw how our waters are being polluted, a single tear rolled down his cheek, telling the whole story. This powerful public service commercial still shows up on TV screens after 17 years.
In 1988 Cody repeated an old Indian legend in Guideposts magazine. Here it is: Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood.  One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. But on the third day, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke.
"I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley."
"No," said the youth. "I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me."
"Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you."
The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, when suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and leapt, biting him on the leg.
"But you promised..." cried the youth.
"You knew what I was when you picked me up." said the snake as it slithered away."
Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 5-7.

Misunderstandings regarding temptation:
Temptation itself is sin.
We fall into temptation.
God is disappointed and displeased when we are tempted.
To be strongly tempted means we are as guilty as if we had actually committed sin.
We overcome all temptation by separation from it.
When I am spiritually mature, I will no longer be harassed by temptation.
Charles Stanley, tape AU146, In Touch, June 1988, p. 13.
Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time. "Son," ordered a father, "Don't swim in that canal."
"OK, Dad," he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening.
"Where have you been?" demanded the father.
"Swimming in the canal," answered the boy. "Didn't I tell you not to swim there?" asked the father.
"Yes, Sir," answered the boy.
"Why did you?" he asked.
"Well, Dad," he explained, "I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn't resist the temptation."
"Why did you take your bathing suit with you?" he questioned.
"So I'd be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted," he replied.
Too many of us expect to sin and excite sin. The remedy for such dangerous action is found in Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Whenever we play with temptation, it is easy to drift into great danger. A woman was bathing in the Gulf of Mexico. She was enjoying the comfort of relaxing on an inflated cushion that kept her afloat. When she realized that she had been swept about a half mile out from the beach, she began to scream, but no one heard her. A coast guard craft found her five miles from the place where she first entered the water. She did not see her danger until she was beyond her own strength and ability.
C. Swindoll, One Step Forward, p. 85.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil

1: Alluring music of the Sirens: The story of sirens in Greek mythology describes the negative and positive ways of fighting temptations. The Sirens are creatures with the heads of beautiful women and the bodies of attractive birds. They lived on an island (Sirenum scopuli– a group of three small rocky islands). With the irresistible charm of their song, they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island (Homer’s Odyssey XII, 39-54, 158-200; Virgil’s Aeneid V, 42-44; Ovid’s Metamorphoses XIV, 88-89). They sang so sweetly that all who sailed near their home in the sea were fascinated and drawn to the shore only to be destroyed. When Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey, passed that enchanted spot he escaped the temptation from sirens by ordering himself to be tied to the mast and ordering his sailor comrades to put wax in the ears, so that they might not hear the luring and bewitching strains. But King Tharsius chose a better and positive way of conquering Sirens’ temptations. He took the great Greek singer and lyrist Orpheus along with him. Orpheus took out his lyre and sang a song so clear and ringing that it drowned the sound of those lovely, fatal voices of the Sirens. Today’s readings advise us that the best way to break the charm of this world’s alluring voices during Lent is not trying to shut out the music by plugging our ears, but to have our hearts and lives filled with the sweeter music of prayer, penance, the word of God, self-control, and acts of charity. Then temptations will have no power over us (RH).

2: Temptation to keep large carnivores as pets: Antoine Yates lived in New York City and for some inexplicable reason brought home a 2-month-old tiger cub “Ming” and later an alligator, “Al”. It’s not clear where he found them. But they were with him for two years — in his apartment. What was a little tiger cub, became a 500-pound Bengal tiger monstrosity and a mini alligator a three-foot monster! It was inevitable. The police got a call about a “dog” bite and when they got to the 19-story public housing apartment building, they discovered Yates in the lobby with injuries to his right arm and leg. Someone alerted them of the possibility of a “wild animal” at his apartment. A fourth-floor resident complained that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates’ apartment. When they arrived, the police peered through a hole and saw the huge cat prowling around in the apartment. To make a long story short, it took a contingent of officers at the door, and some rappelling from the roof to use a dart gun to bring this animal under control. When they entered the apartment, they found the big cat lying atop some newspapers. The alligator was nearby. Both animals were relocated to shelters. As for Yates, he missed his tiger and alligator, demonstrating that it’s possible to be in love with the very things that can kill you. That is what happens to those who entertain temptations in the form of evil thoughts and desires, evil habits and addictions.

3: “On the ninth trip around the block, there it was!” A comical, but illustrative, story shows us how adept we are at rationalizing our actions: A very overweight man decided that it was time to shed a few pounds. He went on a new diet and took it seriously. He even changed his usual driving route to the office in order to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at the office carrying a large, sugar-coated coffee cake. His office mates roundly chided him, but he only smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “What could I do? This is a very special cake. This morning, from force of habit, I accidentally drove by my favorite bakery. There in the window were trays of the most delicious goodies. I felt that it was no accident that I happened to pass by, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you really want me to have one of these delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking place in front of the bakery.’ Sure enough, on the ninth trip around the block, there it was!” Temptation is strong, but we must be stronger. We should not tempt fate and we should not rationalize our actions.

4. “I gave them up for Lent.” A Catholic priest working in an inner city was walking down an alley one evening on his way home when a young man came down the alley behind him and poked a knife against his back. “Give me your money,” the young man said. The priest opened his jacket and reached into an inner pocket to remove his wallet, exposing his clerical collar. “Oh, I’m sorry, Father,” said the young man, “I didn’t see your collar. I don’t want YOUR money.” Trembling from the scare, the priest removed a cigar from his shirt pocket and offered it to the young man. “Here,” he said. “Have a cigar.” “Oh, no, I can’t do that,” the young man replied, “I gave them up for Lent.”

5. Making peace with his penance: A priest spied a parishioner enjoying some tasty smoked sausage on Friday during Lent — a strict no-no in the Church. The priest, being a pragmatic soul, told the man for his penance he was to bring a load of lumber to the church to help repair the roof. The man grumbled but went off to do his penance. He arrived at the church on the next Friday and proceeded to dump a huge load of sawdust into the parking lot. “What’s this?” the priest wanted to know. “I told you your penance was a load of lumber, not sawdust.” The man replied cooley, “Well, if that sausage I ate was meat, then this sawdust is lumber.”

6. Just have a beer: A man took his young son to a baseball game. While they were sitting there, he asked the boy what he was going to give up for Lent. The boy replied, “I don’t know, Dad. What are you going to give up?” His father said, “I’ve thought about this a lot and decided to give up liquor.” Later in the game, the beer man came by, and the man ordered a beer. His son objected, “Hey, I thought you were giving up liquor!” His dad answered, “Hard liquor, son. I’m giving up hard liquor. This is just a beer.” To which the boy replied, “Well then, I’m giving up hard candy.”

7. Fish ‘n’ chips: It is February 22, the third Friday of Lent, and the faithful parishioner stumbles through pouring rain past hamburger huts and steak houses into the monastery at Mount Angel and requests shelter. He’s just in time for dinner and is treated to the best fish and chips he’s ever had. After dinner, he goes into the kitchen to thank the chefs. He’s met by two brothers, “Hello, I’m Brother Michael, and this is Brother Francis.” “I’m very pleased to meet you. I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful dinner. The fish and chips were the best I’ve ever tasted. Out of curiosity, who cooked what?” Brother Michael replies, “Well, I’m the fish friar.” The man turns to the other brother and says, “Then you must be . . .” “Yes, I’m afraid I’m the chip monk.”

8. “I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.” A bartender notices that every evening, without fail, one of his patrons orders three beers. After several weeks of noticing this pattern, the bartender asks the man why he always orders three beers. The man says, “I have two brothers who have moved away to different countries. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond.” Several weeks later, noticing that the man only ordered two beers, the bartender said, “Please accept my condolences on the death of one of your brothers. You know, the two beers and all…” The man replied, “You’ll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well… It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.” 

27- Additional anecdotes:

1) “I’m already working on a murder case!” The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants — who was not known to be the brightest academically — was called in for an interview. “Okay,” began the sheriff, “What is 1 and 1?” “Eleven,” came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but he’s right.” Then the sheriff asked, “What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?” “Today & tomorrow,” replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself. “Now, listen carefully. Who killed Abraham Lincoln?” asked the sheriff. The jobseeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.” The sheriff replied, “Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while?” The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, “The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!” In our Gospel reading this morning, (Matthew 4:1-11), it is Jesus’ first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Will he take the crown without the cross? Fr. Tony ( L/20

2) “I only want to get my nose in:” An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the door of the tent where he was sleeping. “It’s very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced,” said the camel, “you may leave; as for myself I shall stay where I am.” “Give but an inch,” says Lancelot Andrews, “and the devil will take an ell; if he can get in an arm, he will makeshift to shove in his whole body.” Fr. Tony ( L/20

3) Devil’s timing: In basketball, things change much more quickly than in football. This is partly because there are three-point shots; partly because of the trumping effect of last second foul shots; partly because the basketball court is still the same size its always been while players are all now seven feet tall, weigh 250 pounds and can dunk from the free-throw line. The basketball score, the balance of power, in any game seems as though it can change in an instant. In basketball, two minutes left on the clock is an eternity. Entire games are played, entire lifetimes are lived, in those last two minutes. Unless your team is down by more than 20 points, you still have a chance. That’s why the most nail-biting, hair-raising, ulcerating, blood-pressure-raising moments in sports are in the last 10 seconds of neck-and-neck basketball games. In the last few seconds of a one-point game the test becomes not of skill, or style, or strength. No: at that crunch-point everything comes down to timing. In the big game – the game of life – timing is everything. Does anyone doubt the devil’s timing when he arrived to accompany Jesus after he had spent forty days and forty nights of fasting in the wilderness? Jesus was exhausted, hungry, alone, tired, wobbly. The devil wrongly calculated that Jesus would be a perfect victim. But his timing is often perfect when he tempts us. Fr. Tony ( L/20

4) “The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows.” A group of mountain hikers came across an old woodsman with an axe on his shoulder. “Where are you going?” they asked him.” “I’m headed up the mountain to get some wood to repair my cabin.” “But why are you going up the mountain?” they asked incredulously. “There are plenty of trees all around us here.” “I know,” he said, “but I need strong timber and it grows only on the highest elevations, where the trees are tested and toughened by the weather around them. The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows.” And that is what God desires for us — that through the winds of trial and the storms of temptation we may grow strong and live on a higher level — strong to resist the devil’s urging, strong to serve God, and strong as we stand together in Faith and service to one another. Take my advice — stay close to each other, worship regularly and often, avoid temptation when it comes your way, and fill your hearts with God’s word. Fr. Tony ( L/20

5) “Micro-chipped” their dogs and cats. An increasing number of responsible pet owners have now “micro-chipped” their dogs and cats. A small “chip” is injected under the skin and when a special scanner is run over the chip, the creature’s whole history is made available—-pet’s name, owner’s name, home address, home phone, vet’s name, vet’s phone, medications taken. It’s all there. Most animal shelters now have these scanners. When a lost or wandering animal is brought in, “scanning” is the first procedure. Often the “lost” is “found,” immediately. Parents of teenagers have gotten the message too. An increasing number of parents—-with or more often without their teen’s knowledge—-“bug” their kids’ car to keep track of where they are at all times. Tiny spy cameras can also keep an eye on driving habits, speed, and who gets in and out of the car. . . . I see some teenagers looking at their parents very nervously right now. . .More familiar are parental controls put on e-mail accounts, alerting mom and dad when inappropriate web sites are accessed, or e-mails received. For example, we have an AOL alert on our 10- and 12-year old’s email accounts. But think again. Even in such a “Big Brother is watching” world, the truth is there is just too much temptation, and too strong an urge to misbehave, to ever keep track of everything. Today’s Gospel teaches us how to defeat temptations using Jesus’ techniques. Fr. Tony ( L/20

6) “What did you miss the most?” After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was riding on a train. A man came up to him and asked, “What did you miss the most down at the South Pole?” Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things. Some of them they didn’t mind missing, and others they did; some they were very glad to get away from. He said he was discussing that very thing in the middle of the six months long Polar night with one of the Irishmen in the camp, Jack O’Brien. Byrd asked, “Jack, what are you missing most from civilization?” Jack answered without any hesitation, “Temptation.” Temptation is a very real part of life: temptation to stray from the values we hold dear, temptation to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to find the easy way through. Fr. Tony ( L/20

7) “A man who has no more temptations.” In the stories of the Desert Fathers there is one concerning Abbot John the Dwarf. Abbot John prayed to the Lord that all passion be taken from him. His prayer was granted. He became impassible. In this condition he went to one of the elders and said: “You see before you a man who is completely at rest and has no more temptations.” The elder surprised him. Instead of praising him, the elder said: “Go and pray to the Lord to command some struggle to be stirred up in you, for the soul is matured only in battles.” Abbot John did this, and when the temptations started up again, he did not pray that the struggle be taken away from him. Instead he prayed: “Lord, give me strength to get through the fight.” [Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New York: New Directions, 1960), p. 56-57.]

8) “Run, D.J., run!” William H. Hinson tells about an amusing article that appeared in his local paper. Over the past several years in Houston, Texas there has been a rash of incidents in which dogs have attacked small children. As a result, the newspapers have run several stories about the attacks some of which have been pretty gruesome. There was one, however, involving a little boy called D.J. that was not so tragic. A reporter asked D.J. how he managed to come away from a recent dog attack unharmed. You can almost picture the serious expression on the little guy’s face as he said, “Well, right in the middle of the attack, the Lord spoke to me.” “Oh, really,” asked the reporter, “And what did God say?” “He said, ‘Run, D.J., run!'” the young man reported. [William H. Hinson, Reshaping the Inner You (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988).] There may have been times in your life in which God has whispered, “Run, Jim, run!” Or “Run, Sally, Run!” This is a particularly valuable message when we are tempted by the devil. Fr. Tony ( L/20

9) “I’m back, thanks to God” Betty Hutton was a famous movie star and huge box office attraction back in the 40’s and 50’s. But Betty Hutton became lost. Family problems, emotional problems, illness, bankruptcy, depression, and alcoholism stole her life away. In her trouble she cried to the Lord, and the Lord heard her cry. The Lord delivered her from the forces of wickedness, restored her soul, and called her life back to order, making her a new person. As a new woman, Betty Hutton made a comeback in the theatrical world playing Mrs. Hennigan in the Broadway musical Annie. At the first performance, the program notes contained extensive biographical sketches of the cast members-except for Betty Hutton. Under her picture and name were five words, “I’m back, thanks to God.” [James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1994).] Somebody here today needs to experience down in his or her heart, God’s great delivery and write on the biography of his or her life, “I’m back, thanks to God.” Fr. Tony ( L/20

10) Confess your corporate sins: A moving documentary on Abraham Lincoln shows us that the revered American president considered the Civil War to be a great sin. But the greater offense against the Almighty, in Lincoln’s mind, was the sin of slavery. In his Second Inaugural address Lincoln said, “If God wills that [this war] continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: ‘The judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether’” [A Documentary History of the United States edited by Richard D. Heffner (New York: The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1956), p. 157.] Lincoln believed that there would be no redemption for this nation until our corporate sin was confessed. But Lent and Lincoln have now been vaporized by a culture that refuses to face its violent and racist history. To confess our corporate sin is to admit weakness, to disclose our vulnerability, and to diminish our self-esteem. Thus, we indeed resemble the culture, which H. Richard Niebuhr so aptly described two generations ago when he wrote, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” [“The Kingdom of God in America,” (New York, Harper Brothers, 1937), p 193.] Fr. Tony ( L/20

11) “Now, that’s temptation.” William Willimon, in his book What’s Right with the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), tells about leading a Sunday School class that was studying the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After careful study and explanation of each of the three temptations, Dr. Willimon asked, “How are we tempted today?” A young salesman was the first to speak. “Temptation is when your boss calls you in, as mine did yesterday, and says, ‘I’m going to give you a real opportunity. I’m going to give you a bigger sales territory. We believe that you are going places, young man.’ ‘But I don’t want a bigger sales territory,’ the young salesman told his boss. ‘I’m already away from home four nights a week. It wouldn’t be fair to my wife and daughter.’ ‘Look,’ his boss replied, ‘we’re asking you to do this for your wife and daughter. Don’t you want to be a good father? It takes money to support a family these days. Sure, your little girl doesn’t take much money now, but think of the future. Think of her future. I’m only asking you to do this for them,’ the boss said.” The young man told the class, “Now, that’s temptation.” Fr. Tony ( L/20

12) “You knew what I was when you picked me up” We are often tempted by material things, opportunities, and possibilities of contemporary life – items that we generally know will only lead us away from God. The choice to avoid such temptations is ours and, thus, we must be wary of their allure. A Native American folk tale describes this problem: One day an Indian youth, in an effort to prepare for manhood, hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees and decorated with many lovely flowers. There he fasted and prayed, but on the third day he looked up at the surrounding mountains and noticed one tall and rugged peak capped with snow. He decided that he would test himself by climbing this mountain. Thus, he put on his buckskin shirt, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, and set out to climb the peak. When he reached the top he looked out from the rim to the world so far below. Then he heard a rustling sound and, looking around, saw a snake slithering about. Before he could move, the snake spoke to him, “I am about to die. It’s too cold for me up here; I am freezing. There is little food and I am starving. Please put me under your shirt where I will be warm and take me down the mountain.” The young man protested, “No. I have been forewarned about your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up you will bite me and I might die.” But the snake answered, “Not so. I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special to me, I will not harm you, and you will receive whatever you want.” The young man resisted for some time, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful diamond markings. At last the young man tucked the snake under his shirt and carried it down the mountain. Once in the valley he gently placed the snake on the ground. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and then bit the man on the leg. “You promised me!” cried the youth. “You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake, which then slithered away. Fr. Tony ( L/20

13) “First, I want to hear that harmonica!” A young man was sent to Spain by his company to work in a new office they were opening there. He accepted the assignment because it would enable him to earn enough money to marry his long-time girlfriend. The plan was to pool their money and, when he returned, put a down payment on a house, and get married. As he bid his sweetheart farewell at the airport, he promised to write her every day and keep in touch. However, as the lonely weeks slowly slipped by, his letters came less and less often and his girlfriend back home began to have her doubts. “Spain is filled with beautiful women,” she wrote, “and after all you are a handsome man.” When he received that letter, the young man wrote her right back declaring that he was paying absolutely no attention to the local girls. “I admit,” he wrote, “that I am tempted. But I find myself so busy with my work that I have no time for such foolishness.” However, in the very next mail delivery, the young man received a package from his sweetheart. It contained a harmonica and a note. “I’m sending you this harmonica,” his girlfriend wrote, “so you will have something to take your mind off those girls.” The young man wrote her back, thanking her for the gift and promising her that he would practice the harmonica every night and think only of her. Finally, after months of waiting, the day came for him to return to the States and his sweetheart was waiting for him at the airport. As he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up restraining hand and said sternly, “Hold on there. First, I want to hear that harmonica!” She was a wise young lady. She knew the power of temptation and the weakness of the human heart. And so did Jesus. Fr. Tony ( L/20

14) “Get behind me Satan.” Experiencing marital problems, a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly,” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work within a week. The husband quit making his weekly stop at the tool section in the local hardware store and his wife, a chronic spendthrift obsessed with purchasing the latest fashions, ceased buying dresses every time she went out to the mall. For whenever they got the urge to spend money, they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, ‘Get behind me Satan’?” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did, I heard a response.” “Yeah, and what was that response?” growled back her husband. “Well I heard him say, ‘It looks better from the back than it does from the front!’” (Sent by Deacon Gary). Fr. Tony ( L/20

15) Eagle in Niagara Falls: It was a cold, winter day. A carcass on an ice floe floated slowly down the Niagara River. An Eagle flying overhead spied the easy prey below and descended upon it. He began to eat. As he did, the water of the river began slowly pushing the floe toward the falls. But could not the eagle, stretch forth his great wings and fly? Could he not, at the very brink of the falls, leap into the safety of the air? Had he not done so a thousand times before? So slowly, he continued to eat. As he waited, the water of the river began pushing the floe faster and faster and closer and closer to the falls, until the roar of the falls began to echo throughout the canyon. He waited until the very mists of the falls began rising above his head. Finally, he stretched forth his great wings to fly. Unknown to him, his talons, sunk in the frozen flesh of his prey and sunk in the ice of the floe, had frozen solid. His fate was sealed. He struggled, and he struggled, and he tried to get away, but he could not, until at last, the floe went over the falls and onto the rocks below. He had waited too long. (Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations). Fr. Tony ( L/20

16) Surf torture: The U.S. Navy has a Special Forces team called the SEALS. It takes a lot to become part of this elite group. One of the many physical challenges that SEALS in training must complete is called “surf torture”. Basically, the entire class must wade into the surf zone to their waistline and then sit down with arms linked. The whole time they are there the waves crash into them, hence the term “surf torture”. The biting cold water quickly sucks out all of the body’s warmth and before long, the entire class shivers in unison as the waves crash over their heads. The plan calls for submersion to the brink of hypothermia, then the trainees get pulled out for some calisthenics to warm up – then back in the surf for more conditioning. The training session has been proven a very successful way to teach prospective SEALS how to mentally fend off the effects of hypothermia. That is exactly what God is doing with us by permitting temptations. Fr. Tony ( L/20

17) St. Ignatius Gets Smart: St. Ignatius Loyola was a Christian knight from the Basque country of northern Spain. He inherited all the swashbuckling worldliness of the flashiest Spanish gallants, and as a young man he threw himself into the battles with France that raged in the borderlands surrounding his home. There he was blasted with a cannonball. The break in his leg was badly set and, in his vanity, he told them to break it again and reset it properly. The whole process took months of recuperation. Bored stiff, he asked for some romance novels to read. None were available in the castle, but there was a Life of Christ and a few volumes of lives of the saints. Just to pass the time, he began to read them. Soon he began to relish them. By the time he recovered, he had become firmly convinced of the vanity of earthly glory. He made a pilgrimage and began leading a truly Christian life, laying deep foundations of intense and heartfelt prayer and building up an impressive spiritual edifice of self-denial, charity, and dedication to the Kingdom of Christ. He then took up studies for the priesthood in Europe’s greatest university, even though he was twice as old as most of the students. He gathered some fellow students around him and convinced them to dedicate their lives completely to serve the cause of Christ. That little group became the seed of the religious order now known as the Jesuits, which has had more of an impact on the world, perhaps, than any other institution besides the Church itself. Since its foundation in 1541, there has never been a day in which the earth has not been blessed with the presence of a Jesuit who was later canonized as a saint. Fr. Tony ( L/20

18) Triumph and Tragedy of Mel Gibson: Every one of us knows who Mel Gibson is and how he messed up his life after making The Passion of the Christ. It wasn’t coincidence. My theory is that he did so much good through this movie that it brought on him a lot of attacks by the evil one as revenge for the spiritual good done by the film. Because he wasn’t “careful” enough or didn’t look on what happened to him in his spiritual battlefield, Gibson wasn’t ready for battles that came after he had finished the Passion movie. Because of his well-documented paranoia, he repeatedly roared threats to kill his estranged ex-wife of 28 years and burn down her house. He alludes to having earlier hit her hard enough to break several of her teeth—something he claims she “deserved.” Mel’s former wife surely knows that not only is Mel a racist, homophobe, misogynist, and anti-Semite, he is a drug and alcohol abuser and a violent or potentially violent man. Why did he have all these tragedies after the great triumph of his career The Passion of the Christ which grossed over $604 million worldwide? Because he ignored Peter’s advice, “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your Faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9a). (Adapted from Fr Matuesz Rudzik).Fr. Tony ( L/20

19) Lent Day 35 – The Lesson of Lough Derg:
I don’t know any other place on earth that better exemplifies purgative suffering than Lough Derg. Otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Purgatory, this Irish island was purportedly visited by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The saint came in order to spend a penitential retreat of forty days and forty nights. And from the Middle Ages to the present day, pilgrims have journeyed there, in imitation of Patrick, to do penance and to pray. When the retreatants arrive, they are instructed immediately to take off their shoes and socks, and they endure the three-day process barefoot, regardless of the weather. That first day, they fast (eating nothing but dry bread and a soup composed of hot water and pepper), and they move through a series of prayers and spiritual exercises. The first night, they are compelled to stay awake, fasting from sleep. If someone dozes off, his fellow pilgrims are expected to wake him up. The following day, they continue with their fast and their exercises, but they are allowed to sleep that night. The third day involves still more prayer and culminates with confession and Mass. After the liturgy, the pilgrims put their shoes back on and are ferried across to the mainland. Those who come to Lough Derg take their spiritual lives with utter seriousness, and that is precisely why they are willing to endure hardship – even imposing it on themselves – in order to deepen their communion with God. They know that there are certain tendencies within their bodies and souls that are preventing the achievement of full friendship with God and therefore they seek, quite sensibly, to discipline themselves. St. John Henry Newman commented that the ascetical principle is basic to a healthy Christianity. He meant that Christians, at their best, understand that our sinful nature has to be chastised, disciplined, and rightly ordered. When the ascetical instinct disappears (as it has in much of Western Christianity), the spiritual life rapidly becomes superficial and attenuated, devolving into an easy “I’m okay and you’re okay” attitude. The whole point of the Christian life is to find joy, but the attainment of true joy comes, in a sinful world, at the cost of some suffering. (Bishop Robert Barron). Fr. Tony

20) Why Penance? Once upon a time a very earnest young man visited a famous rabbi. He told the rabbi that he wanted to become a rabbi and asked for his advice. It was wintertime. The rabbi stood at the window looking out into the yard while the rabbinical candidate gave him a glowing account of his piety and learning. The young man said, ‘You see, Rabbi, I always dress in spotless white like the sages of old. I never drink any alcoholic beverages; only water ever passes my lips. I perform numerous penances. For instance, I always carry sharp-edged nails inside my shoes to mortify me. Even in the coldest weather. I lie naked in the snow to punish my flesh. And to complete my penance, I take a dozen lashes every day on my bare back.’ As the young man spoke, a stable boy led a white horse into the yard and took him to the water trough. The horse drank his fill of water, and having done so, rolled in the snow, as horses sometimes do. ‘Just look!’ cried the rabbi. “That animal, too, is dressed in white. It also drinks nothing but water, has nails in its shoes and rolls naked in the snow. Also, rest assured, it gets its daily ration of lashes on the rump from its master. Now, I ask you, is it a saint, or is it a horse?” The point the rabbi was making was that penance is not an end in itself. What is the purpose of penance? Is it meant to undo the past? The past is done. Is it meant to persuade God to erase our sins and forgo the punishment we deserve for them? Why penance? (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony ( L/20

21) True Penance: A wealthy Jewish merchant treats a poor old man with rudeness and disdain as they travel together on a train. When they arrive at their common destination, the merchant finds the station thronged with pious Jews waiting in ecstatic joy to greet the arrival of one of the holiest rabbis in Europe, and learns to his chagrin that the old man in his compartment is that saintly rabbi. Embarrassed at his disgraceful behavior and distraught that he missed a golden opportunity to speak in privacy to a wise and holy man, the merchant pushes his way through the crowed to find the old man. When he reaches him, he begs the rabbi’s forgiveness and requests his blessing. The old man answered, “To receive forgiveness you must go out and beg it from every poor old person in the world.” (Brian Cavanaugh in The Sower’s Seed; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

22) “Begone Satan!” In 1988, Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the Nikos Kazantzakis novel, made waves, worldwide. The core controversy was Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. In 2005, Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, was similarly sensational. Now, a new film, The Aquarian Gospel, is being shot to unveil Jesus’ hidden years during which he imbibes Indic wisdom with a beautiful Indian confidante named Saraswati. This film is set to become a box-office hit in India, at least, since the mademoiselle in question is the sexy Indian actress Mallika Sherawat. Let us not labor to disclose the devilry of fanciful films. But reflections upon Christ’s first temptation will assist our Lenten observances. May Lent lead us to prayer, fasting and almsgiving, so that every “first temptation” might be met with a resolute “Begone, Satan!” (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony ( L/20

23) You look different…A number of years ago Doug Alderson wrote a beautiful article in Campus Life magazine. It described his 2,000-mile hike down the Appalachian Trail. Doug had just graduated from high school and had lots of unanswered questions: Was there a God? What was the purpose of life? What was his purpose in Life? Commenting on all this, Doug wrote: “There had to be more to life than money, TV, parties and getting high…My hike was a search for inner peace, a journey to find myself.” The hike proved to be more difficult than Doug anticipated. At times the trail became dangerously steep. The days were often rainy. Doug’s clothes got soaked, his feet got wet, his body shivered and ached at night. But Doug didn’t give up. The long hours of walking and climbing gave Doug a chance to think. They also gave him a chance to get to know himself better. There was no one around to influence him. Five months later Doug reached home. He was a different person. Even his dog eyed him strangely, as if to say, “Where have you been? What have you done? You look different.” Doug was different. He had found what he was searching for. There was a God. Life had a purpose, and he had a role to play in it. Doug summed up his experience this way: “I was more my own person. I liked what I saw in myself.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony ( L/20

24) Temptations: A lark flying safely high in the air, observed a small object moving slowly along the path in a garden below. Out of curiosity it descended to take a closer look. He discovered it was a small wagon with a cat pulling it and chanting all the time, “Fresh worms for sale. Fresh worms for sale!” Interested, the lark alighted on the path -but at a safe distance. He asked what the worms were selling for. “Three nice worms for one feather from your wing.” said the cat. The lark thought that was a bargain and pulled a feather from his wing and enjoyed the delicious worms. Then he took off and soared again but the thought of those juicy worms brought him down to the wagon again. This time he bought twice as many, and bartered away two more feathers. The same thing happened several more times. But the pussycat was watching closely. Robbed of wing power, the lark was not able to get away when the cat sprang at him… and thus met his death in the garden where temptation had proved too strong for him. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony

25) To become the person, you once needed: When Sara became ill many years ago, bulimia was not yet a household world.  Filled with guilt at her uncontrollable behavior, she was taken to specialist after specialist until someone was able to identify the problem as something much more than teenage rebellion.  Slowly she fought her way back from the edge.  Sara was surrounded by many loving adults, but no one could understand why she was doing this to herself.  She didn’t understand it either.  Sara fought her disease alone and managed to conquer it. Now happily married, Sara read a story in her local newspaper about a new support group for those suffering from bulimia.  Although Sara had not suffered from its symptoms since she was a teenager, she was intrigued by the idea of a support group and went to the meeting.  It was a powerful experience.  The desperately ill young people there touched her heart.  While she felt unable to help them, she cared about them and continued attending the meetings.  Other than saying she had bulimia as a girl, Sara revealed little about herself at the meetings; she sat quietly and listened to the stories of others. As she was about to leave one of the sessions, Sara was stopped by a painfully thin girl who thanked her for coming and told her how much it meant to know her.  The girl’s eyes filled with tears.  Sara responded with her usual graciousness but was puzzled.  Sara could not recall ever speaking to this girl and did not even know her name. As she drove home, Sara wondered how she could have forgotten something so important to someone else.  She was almost home when it dawned on her. Her husband, who met her at the front door, was surprised to see that she had been crying. “Sara, what’s wrong?” he asked. A smile broke through her tears. “Harry, I’ve become the person I needed to meet,” she told him and walked into his arms. [From My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.] The lesson of the Transfiguration is that there exists within each one of us the spirit of God to become the person God calls us to be(Connections)  Fr. Tony

26) You shall not put God to the test: Perhaps the Bible phrase with which our Lord answered Satan in the desert, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” is better known in its older translation, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” No matter. Either version tells us “Don’t shake your fist at God!” One American of yore who did “shake his fist at God” was Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), a freethinking lawyer, politician and public speaker who rejoiced in the moniker, “The Great Agnostic.” Ingersoll, born in Dresden, N.Y., south of Geneva, was a self-educated man, the rationalistic son of an orthodox Congregationalist minister. After studying law, he was admitted to the Illinois Bar. During the Civil War, he formed a regiment, was named its colonel, saw action, and was also held for some months as a prisoner of war. After the War he turned Republican and served as attorney general of Illinois. As a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention, he was given the honor of nominating the party’s presidential candidate, James G. Blaine. Blaine lost, but Ingersoll’s nomination speech was such a classic that he was much in demand afterwards as a lecturer. Indeed, he could earn as much as $3,500 for a single talk. Col. Ingersoll spoke on many things, but preferred religious (or rather, irreligious) subjects especially exposés of God, Moses, the Devil, and Superstition. He attacked common belief with scientific “proofs.” As a speaker, he loved shock. When he lectured on God, for instance, he started by taking out his watch and declaring, “If there is a God, I will give him five minutes to strike me dead.” This was truly “shaking his fist at God.” Of course, Ingersoll always won – not because God was dead, but because He was infinitely patient. Robert Ingersoll meanwhile had high hopes that Republicans in power would promote him to important civil office. They never did because, very sensibly, they didn’t want to raise to a position of power one who so delighted in offending the religious sensibilities of the majority of Americans. As Lent begins, we who believe in God can only pray the He may be as patient with us as He was with Robert Green Ingersoll. (Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony

27) “All right, Mom! But please do not look.”  A young mother wanted to quit smoking. She knew it was bad for her health and the people around her. For her, it had been a vicious cycle of quitting and restarting. Each relapse was inflicting a heavier toll on her body and self-esteem. One tension-filled day, while on a busy run to do the shopping, the urge to light up a cigarette was overpowering. Without knowing why, she pleaded to her three-year old son, seated beside her on the car’s front seat, to do something. He answered with disarming seriousness, “All right, Mom! But please do not look.” She peeked anyway. The little boy was bowing his head in prayer, with the palms of his hands joined. The mother knew that she could not betray the faith of her praying son. The desire for a cigarette left her. From then on, she had more strength to cope with her weakness. Her little son had helped her to overcome temptation and addiction. (Lectio Divina) Fr. Tony ( L/20

Give Up for Lent:
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, “In everything give thanks.” Constructive criticism is OK, but “moaning, groaning, and complaining” are not Christian disciplines.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.
GIVE UP looking at other people’s worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about — like tomorrow! Live today and let God’s grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit some lonely or sick person. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the “tube?” Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God’s riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ. (Craig Gates, Jackson, MS, “What to Give up for Lent”)

Summary of WHAT TO GIVE UP in Lent

Give up complaining. . . . . . . .focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism. . . . . . . . . become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments . . .think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry. . . . . . . . . . . . . trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement. . . . .be full of hope.
Give up bitterness. . . . . . . . . . turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred. . . . . . . . . . . . . return good for evil.
Give up negativism . . . . . . . . .be positive.
Give up anger. . . . . . . . . . . . . .be more patient.
Give up pettiness. . . . . . . . . . .become mature.
Give up gloom. . . . . . . .enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy. . . . . . . . . . . .pray for trust.
Give up gossiping. . . . . . . . . . .control your tongue.
Give up sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . turn to virtue.
Give up giving up. . . . . . . . . . . hang in there!

If we were……
If we were:
knives, Lent would be a time to sharpen our cutting edges.
cars, Lent would be a time for an oil change and a tune-up.
swimming pools, Lent would be a time to filter the dirt out of our water.
gardens, Lent would be a time to fertilize our soil and dig out our weeds.
carpets, Lent would be a time to get power cleaned.
VCRs, Lent would be a time to clean our heads and adjust our tracking.
computers, Lent would be a time to overhaul our disk drive.
highways, Lent would be a time to repair our cracks and fill our potholes.
TV sets, Lent would be a time to adjust our focus and our fine-tuning.
silverware, Lent would be a time to clean away our tarnish.
batteries, Lent would be a time to be recharged.
seeds, Lent would be a time to germinate and reach for the sun.

But we are none of those things.
We are people who — sometimes do wrong things; we need to atone for them.
–sometimes get spiritually lazy; we need to get back into shape.
–sometimes become selfish; we need to stretch out of our narrowness and begin giving again.
–sometimes lose sight of our purpose on earth and the immense promise within us; we need to regain our vision. And because we are also people who sometimes tend to put those things off, we need a special sort of official time to concentrate on doing them. So we have Lent.
The Easter candy will taste sweeter, the Easter flowers will bloom more brightly, the Easter Sunday sun will shine more warmly if we are a better people – and all because of how we spend these next forty days.