Happy Lent! We just began the holy season of Lent. For many, the season is a forty-day period of prayer and fasting. Lent is primarily a time of intense spiritual preparation for conquering temptations using the same means Jesus used during His forty days of preparation in the desert for His public life. It is also the time for renewing our lives for the celebration of Easter with our Risen Lord Who conquered sin by His suffering, death and Resurrection. Lent is also a time when we can honestly assess our prayer life and our relationship with our Lord. The primary way to build our relationship with Christ is through prayer, spending some quiet time with our suffering Savior.
The readings this week teach us that we are always tempted by the devil, by the world and by our own selfish interests. Therefore, we need to cooperate actively with God’s grace to conquer our temptations through prayer. The first reading, taken from the Book of Genesis, describes the “Original Temptation”— “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil.” Adam and Eve were given a choice to live for God, dependent upon and obedient to His will, or to say no to God. The temptation of evil led Adam and Eve to an act of faithlessness and sin. In contrast, Jesus conquered temptation by relying on Faith in God’s Word and authority.
In the second reading, St. Paul describes how the disobedience of Adam, who succumbed to Satan’s Original Temptation, brought him and us death as well as a broken relationship with God. Paul explains that Christ regained the right relationship with God for us by His perfect obedience to God, His Heavenly Father.
Today’s Gospel teaches us how the “desert experience” of fasting, praying, and soul-strengthening enabled Jesus to confront His temptations successfully and then to preach the Good News of Salvation. The tempter urged Jesus to turn stones into loaves of bread. But Jesus rejected that temptation to reduce his Divine mission to satisfying His own immediate, temporal needs. The tempter then suggested that Jesus prove that He was truly the Son of God by jumping off the parapet of the temple. Jesus rejected the temptation to test God. Finally, Jesus rejected the temptation of idolatry, even with the knowledge that it would enrich and empower Him with all kingdoms of the world.
It is true that no one is free from temptation. We are all tempted, at some time or other, to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth or positions of authority, power and glory, and to use any means, even unjust or sinful ones, to gain these things. Jesus serves as a model for us in conquering temptations by showing how He strengthened himself through prayer, penance, and close communion with His Heavenly Father. Therefore, during this Lent, let us confront our own evil tendencies with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—the three pillars of Lent.
In order to make this Lent a great spiritual renewal for you, we have several programs planned for this week in the church. We have Confession, Adoration and Benediction on Wednesdays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Stations of the Cross on Thursdays at 2:00 pm and Fridays at 7:00 pm. The Knights of Columbus fish dinner is every Friday during Lent from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The dinner is a great opportunity to socialize, meet new parishioners and make new friends. We also just started Connection to Christ (C2C) small groups; we have over 20 groups coming together during Lent to read and reflect on the upcoming Sunday readings. It is a great opportunity to grow in your faith and interact with your fellow parishioners. Call the parish office if you want to join any small group. For more information on the Lenten activities here at Santa Sophia, please refer to the flyer that we mailed out to you a few days ago or call the parish office.
The reflection question for the first week of Lent is, “God, how do You want to make me more like You?” Speak to God and commit to spending time in prayer. The theme for our parish in the year 2020 is “Family Life and Spirituality.” I encourage you to spend fifteen to twenty minutes every day in prayer as a family. This quiet time with the Lord will not only help strengthen our Faith but will also help our families grow together in Faith and Love.