Fr. Michael Schleupner, one of our frequent retreat presenters and spiritual directors, offers an “Inbox Inspiration” on our blog today. Let’s read about this practical story and the poignant lessons from Scripture that he shared last week.
…And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” ~ Luke 4:12 (taken from reading Luke 4:1-13)
There is a story about a man who, let’s just say, had put on a few extra pounds. At the beginning of Lent one year, he made a firm resolution to go on a diet. He even changed his usual route to work so that he would avoid driving passing his favorite bakery.
He had often gone there on his way to work and bought a couple of donuts or a pastry. So, he stopped doing that, but then one morning, he arrived at the office carrying a large, cream-filled, dark-chocolate-covered éclair. His fellow workers started to give him a hard time, and he just shrugged his shoulders. “What could I do? This is a very special pastry. What happened is that, by force of habit, I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning, and there in the window was a display of these wonderful eclairs. I felt that it was no accident that I happened to pass by the bakery and so I prayed. ’Lord, if you really want me to have one of those delicious eclairs, let me find a parking space right in front of the bakery.’ And sure enough, there it was – on my ninth time around the block.”
Temptations and Helps
Our friend was dealing with a very human temptation to break his diet. In today’s gospel, Jesus is also dealing with some very real temptations.
I suggest that Jesus’ three temptations are three fundamental ways that we might also be tempted. And I also suggest that the three traditional Lenten practices of fasting, charitable giving, and prayer help us to deal with these temptations.
First, Jesus is tempted to change stone into bread. This temptation is really about finding our satisfaction in physical comforts. We all like comforts, but the issue is that we can be lured into living as if we can find lasting satisfaction in these things. Jesus resists this temptation and his lesson is that only God can satisfy our deepest hunger. The Lenten practice of fasting helps us with this.
The fasting that we Catholics are asked to do as a community is very minimal: limiting our food on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. These practices and any others that we may choose can be very positive. Fasting reminds us even physically that we will find lasting satisfaction only in our relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Jesus is tempted to seek control over the entire world. This temptation is really about letting our ego needs dominate what we do. This can take the form of making ourselves the center of every conversation or pretending we know things we don’t know.
Jesus also resists this temptation and his lesson is that we are not to make ourselves the center of the universe. The Lenten practice of charitable giving helps us with this. It leads us to look beyond our own egos to the needs of others. It moves us to do something for the well-being of someone else. It helps us to keep ourselves in the proper perspective in life.
Finally, Jesus is tempted to jump off of the roof of the temple to prove that he is the Son of God. This temptation is really about always expecting the miraculous from God. Now sometimes we may legitimately ask for the miraculous, as when we are seriously sick, but sometimes we seek the miraculous and ignore the ordinary ways that God is already helping us, as with available medications and treatments.
Jesus also resists this temptation and his lesson is that we need to trust that God is with us in the down and challenging moments of life. The Lenten practice of prayer helps us with this. Our prayer can be reflecting on a passage in the gospel, speaking to God in our own words, praying the rosary, or whatever is good for us. Prayer helps us to rest in the presence of God. It helps us to trust that God will see us through the tough times even without some miraculous intervention.
So, Lent presents us with some of the ways we might slip away from God and some of the practices that can help us to deal with these temptations.
~Fr. Michael Schleupner
If you would like to subscribe to Fr. Michael’s eNews, ensuring that you don’t miss any of his homilies, please click here.