Happy First Sunday of Lent! It’s such a relief to be able to have a breakfast burrito or nachos for lunch, right? Go ahead; eat the cupcake. As Father explained at Mass this morning, every Sunday is a feast day, because every Sunday, we celebrate Easter.
“WHAT?!” you say (unless your priest said the same thing this morning, which is entirely possible). Think about it. The entire purpose of Lent is to prepare for the celebration of Easter, when Christ died for us and rose again so that we might have eternal life with him. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we’re celebrating his sacrifice and resurrection. We even say “Christ hath died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
We probably shouldn’t tell the chocolate companies that we do Easter every week, or we’ll all be sweating whatever goo is in those Cadbury Creme Eggs from every pore. Okay, maybe that’s just me.
But right now, we’re in Lent, and we’re going on a journey together to explore ways to be closer to Christ, to do more to actually be Christ’s hands on earth. Today’s Gospel addresses the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by Satan.
From Mark 1:12-15:
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Mark handles this episode in Christ’s life with typical Markian (Markesque? Markish?) brevity. As we experience the forty days of Lent ourselves with Christ, we realize it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than “tempted by Satan.” We’ve previously talked about wanting a burger on Friday or not spending more time in prayer or charitable giving, and we’ve only done four days of this.
Can you get through another thirty-six days without temptation? Of course not! Of course you’re going to feel tempted and tormented. And you know what? So did Jesus. And he survived it, and then went on to suffer greater pain and humiliation than most of us ever will. So you can do it. We can do it together.
Plus, unlike Jesus, we get to have feast days off. Even the church doesn’t expect us to suffer like Christ, but she does expect us to live more in communion with him. So now that you’re all full and happy and watching the Olympics after Mass, commit to one extra church thing, right now.
Say yes to your parish’s Lenten soup supper this week. Say yes to attending the Stations of the Cross. Say yes to your homeless feeding program. Say yes to your clothing collection and crisis pregnancy ministry.
When it’s later in the week and you’re hungry and irritable, you’ll be grateful for having something to do for others. You’ll be less tempted to be grumpy or whiny. And you’ll be doing what Christ asked us to do: care for our brothers and sisters directly, ourselves, as he did.
Sure beats forty days in the desert with the actual devil, huh?