Lent is a time to reflect about our relationship with God, with others and ourselves. We began lent by marking our foreheads with Ashes; they are a sign of repentance and humility. We recognize that without God we are doomed. We also recognize that at times our actions fail to reflect our level of commitment to God. The ashes mark our sorrows, our guilt and shame. We ask forgiveness and promise to be better, even if it means a little-little better.
God is not asking us to change in order to love us, He already loves us even if we do not change (that’s unconditional love). He wants us to make our lives easier on ourselves and on others.
Last Sunday we read the story of the temptation of Jesus. How many of you like to be tempted? How many of you prefer to be tempted rather than not tempted? A good Christian has to be tempted. Temptation means that you are ready for the next level. Jesus’ temptation preceded his public ministry. Notice that the readings of Mathew say that the Spirit of God took Jesus to the desert to be tempted. It means that the Spirit wanted it. Temptation is a test: it tests our commitment; it tests our truth and perseverance. Notice also that we are tempted based on our spiritual needs. If you are not hungry, food will not be a temptation; if you are not racist or an adulterer you will not be confronted with any of those sins. You are tempted in your vulnerable side (that which you have not still mastered).
When you say: I was just tempted, watch out – you are about to publically reveal your weaknesses. If you say: I was tempted to punch his face, listen carefully, because you are being confronted about your anger and lack of patience. God is giving you the opportunity to overcome your anger and thus become a better person. Temptations vary depending on the spiritual path of each person.
Many of us were raised with the idea that temptations were wrong, and I say to you, let temptations come and win over them. Do not fail in the temptation, do not doubt yourself. Fast, pray, do penance and get that spirit of yours in shape, so that when difficult times come, and temptation knocks at your door, you are ready to say: I want to be a true follower of Christ, and in his name you shall not win. Temptations come in all shapes. We have all sorts of excuses to justify our behavior. But at the end of the day what counts are your actions. What did you do to improve the world? What did you do to improve your relationship to your children, your spouse, and your neighbor?
Stop feeling guilty or ashamed, just do something about it. Feeling guilty and not doing something means you already lost the battle. Instead, this lent, take time to pray, fast and put it to practice. Have a blessed week!
Mass every Sunday at 5:00 pm in Spanish and 6:00 pm English at St. Mary’s in Palms 3647 Watseka Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034-3914