How many of you remember the television show Hee-Haw? That was back in the days when television was really funny. Well, one time on the show," 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. Temptation. We cannot regularly put ourselves in the face of temptation and not be affected. This is the subject matter before us today. Every year, on the first Sunday of Lent we hear the story of Christ’s temptation in the desert. Mark’s Gospel, which we just heard is the shortest of all. In fact, it is one of the shortest Gospel readings in all of the New Testament. But its message is strong: temptation is out there but we must resist as Jesus showed us. The Greek word for “temptation” is more accurately translated as “tested”. I believe this is exactly what was going on in the desert during those 40 days. Jesus was being tested. Would He remain faithful to God’s plan? You know, Jesus was powerful enough to change anything he wanted. He could have turned stones into bread when He was hungry. He could have changed the minds of those who disagreed with Him. He could have turned and walked away from those who crucified Him. He could have done any of those things….but He didn’t.
Well, this past Wednesday we began our own 40 days in the desert. But what is the point? Some argue that this idea of Lent is outdated. I strongly disagree. We all need a reset from time to time. Some of us make resolutions at this time of the year. It is akin to New Year's in that we give up things that are bad for us like candy or wine. Some of us plan to become closer to God through daily Mass or more frequent prayer. We try to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. That is the Lenten trio….Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. They are important aspects of our Lenten journey and I encourage you to include them. But I also like to think of Lent in a more “down to earth” kind of way. You know, I have always loved gardening. I’m sure many of you agree and love to work outside, tending to your plants and watching them flourish. Here along the Gulf Coast, October is a terrific planting season. The nurseries are full of tempting plants and flowers. That is a good temptation! But then what happens? After Christmas we get a few days of below-freezing temperatures and everything dies back. All of those lovely tropical plants are wilted and ugly. Today you are probably thinking about what you will plant when the weather warms. You first have to decide what is worth saving in your garden and what you should pull up and replace. That is what Lent is all about. We take a good long look at our lives. What is going well in our lives and what is poisoning us? What should we keep in our lives and what should we replace?
So, yes, it is important to resolve to do better during Lent. However, we are only human. Resolutions can be broken. As I mentioned this past Wednesday, St. Augustine is known to have said “God does not require us to succeed, He only requires that you try." Keep this in mind as that resolution to give up chocolate falls by the wayside. Look for the bigger picture. A little chocolate never hurt anyone but there may be more serious things that need pruning. Those are the things that require our attention this Lent.