Friday, February 9, 2018

Lent: Do Not Attempt Without Divine Supervision

Safety Disclaimers. They appear in commercials, either as fine print on the bottom of the screen or as voiceovers, warning of the possible dangers of amateur imitation or uninformed product use. "Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt." We even see them at our children’s playgrounds: “Adult supervision required.” For the sake of our safety, we know we need to take these warnings seriously.
There is no one who cares more about our safety than God. So, of course, the Bible is chock full of such disclaimers—warnings that are meant for application to every walk of life, every season, and every situation. Let’s put this to the test by looking at the season into which we are about to enter once again: the 40 days of Lent.
As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (540): "By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” Looking at the two Gospel accounts of Jesus’ time of fasting and trial in the wilderness-- Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13—in each case we read that Jesus was “led by the Holy Spirit into the desert.” But isn’t that an obvious, even unnecessary statement? As the Son of God, wasn’t Jesus always led by and filled with the Holy Spirit? Of course! So then just what were Matthew and Luke telling their faith communities-- and telling us-- with this seemingly obvious statement?
Remembering that the Gospels are not only accounts of the words and works of Jesus, but are even more so a handbook and field guide for all who seek to follow Him, these words are in fact an unequivocal warning, a disclaimer, meant for our instruction. Following Jesus means imitating Him in all things. During these 40 days, we fast, pray, and give alms, hoping to diminish the hold that this world and our own selfishness have upon us, so that we might become more like the One we follow—the One Who defeated Satan! But beware that Lent does not in fact become an exercise in achievement and pride. Do not attempt such a prolonged battle without Divine supervision-- without the loving and powerful help and guidance of the same Holy Spirit that led the Lord Himself into the desert.
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit." (Gal. 5:24-25)

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