Bishop Eric Menees
Lent is a season of Contrasts. First, we normally think of Lent as being gloomy and sad. However, the name actually comes from the Old English word: “Lecten,” which means, “Spring.” Second, while Lent is a time of self-examination, prayer, and fasting, it is through these spiritual disciplines that we find our way again. When we take Lent seriously, we find that a part of us dies; however, we also discover that we come alive as our relationship with Christ, and one another, deepens. Third, we discover that age-old spiritual reality, that the temptations we face become stronger and more powerful the closer we get to God.
That’s exactly what happened to Jesus in last Sunday’s gospel of the baptism and temptation by Satan. Isn’t it odd that the moment Jesus is baptized he is led away into the desert to be tempted by the devil? Mark, unlike Matthew and Luke, doesn’t tell us what those temptations are, but he does say that the temptations were from Satan himself; that Jesus was out in the wilderness with the wild beasts; and that the angels waited on him. One commentator noted the irony that it was the angels who waited on Jesus: “Angels who know no hunger or thirst, Angels who need no protection from the elements, Angels who need no protection from the wild beasts.”
Why is it that the closer we get to God, the more powerful temptation seems to be? Perhaps it’s the spiritual form of Newton’s second law of physics: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The brighter the daylight, the darker the night appears.
I know that this is true in my life. I’ll go away on a retreat, have a wonderful time working on my relationship with the Lord, and when I return it seems that all “H. E. double hockey sticks” breaks out! I’m tempted to throw away all the progress that I’ve just made.
Perhaps it’s the same with you; you start to recognize a special closeness with the Lord, and then your office-mates or friends will try to draw you into the gossip circle.
Perhaps the temptation isn’t actually more powerful, but because of the deepening relationship with Christ you can simply see it for more of what it is - the way a jeweler will place diamonds on a black velvet cloth in order to see the jewels more clearly.
I wonder if we should pray that our temptations will be all the stronger and more powerful this Lent, because that will mean that your relationship with God is equally strong. Humm… ok maybe I won’t pray that exact prayer; but I will pray that your relationship with God is strengthened. So tighten up your bootstraps - you’re in for a ride!
A blessed Lent to you all!