Today begins the forty days of Lent, a time for Catholics to reflect on their lives, a time of spiritual renewal and perhaps growth. Traditional Roman Catholics have meatless Wednesdays and Fridays, a sign of giving up something of substance and today the receiving of ashes as an outward sign of mortality and repentance. The lesson of Lent can be summed up in three points:
Life is not futile, mistakes are not fatal, death is not final.
Luke 4:1-4 says: "Jesus, full of the holy spirit came from Jordan and led by the spirit went into the wilderness for forty days and in that time he ate nothing and when those days were completed he was hungry." The tempter came to him and said: "If you are the son of God, command these stones to be turned into bread." Jesus replys: "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God."
How interesting is Satan's challenge: "IF you are the son...", Satan knows who Yeshua is, just as he knew then. How very like the challenges we offer to God: IF you are a loving God how can you..., IF you cared about me you would...., IF I do this for you God, will you do something for me? We are reduced to sounding like bad car salesmen. Satan wanted Jesus to perform for him, to use outward power to satisfy himself, to be instantly gratified. How many times do we call upon God to use his power to answer our needs instead of prayerfully conversing with our heavenly Father and focusing on his will for us. Jesus answer to Satan is that God spoke the world into existence, God speaks and the world brings forth. Bread alone can be satisfying, but is temporary and must be consumed over and over again to satisfy. God's word is eternal.
When Catholic children are asked what they will give up for Lent the response most often heard is candy and while this is a good start if adhered to it is often the default or fallback response for a Lenten commitment. There are other ways of fasting: consider not using social networking, or reducing computer usage, consider no television, perhaps you can join a bible study or commit to study and meditation on God's word, maybe you can give of your time and treasure to those in need. Prayerfully consider what God will lead you to do, or not do in the next forty days. Life is not futile as Yeshua Messiah taught us.