“The Temptation of Christ” by Ary Scheffer (Dutch-French, 1795-1858), painted in 1854, housed at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England. COURTESY PHOTO

Spiritual Life

FATHER JOHN BROHEIMER: Put the Father and his plan for us first this Lent

I hope we are committed to holy actions during the whole year: praying the Rosary and other daily prayers, attending Mass as we are able during this pandemic, reading the Scriptures and other spiritual literature, and committing ourselves to acts of charity.

But the Church in her great wisdom also gives us the season of Lent as an opportunity to dig in to the basics of a good spiritual life. We have six-and-a-half weeks, which is neither too long nor too short, to concentrate again on the fundamental practices of a life lived faithfully.

The Lord was perfect already, of course, but by fasting in the desert he honed and solidified his obedience to the Father and his love for us. The Church proposes this same purpose for us during the Great Forty Days. We make the effort to allow God to put our souls in order especially through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

There are two times that the Scriptures tell us the Lord was tempted. The first is our Gospel this weekend when he was in the desert. The other time was on Holy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested. Both times he was in the most intense prayer, trying to wholeheartedly focus on doing the Father’s will. It was in those moments of becoming the most resolved in holiness that the Evil One tried to distract him with temptations. These temptations were especially to do things the easy way rather than the way the Father wanted good to be accomplished.

The same thing can happen to us, too, unfortunately. When we are living a mediocre type of holiness and not making the effort to move forward in obedience and love, the Evil One is not so interested in us. We are no threat to his kingdom. But as soon as we start to excel in virtue, pray more intently, live in true holiness by loving God with our whole heart – that is when the Evil One may try to distract us with temptations.

Sometimes those temptations are directly toward sin, but often enough those temptations are directed at simple laziness in the spiritual life, to try to do things the easy way. That is one reason we really need Lent – so we can be well-practiced in holiness and zeal for God, so our religious senses are sharp and practiced, so we are prepared to walk the difficult path which leads to great goodness.

Have you made a plan for Lent to give up certain things as mortifications, to purposefully love others in meaningful ways which require sacrifice, and especially to pray? These are the perennial good works which can purify us and help us to be centered on God. When we get further into Lent, sometimes it seems to get more difficult to stay the course with our Lenten plans. But do not give up. We can keep going if we do what the Lord did and that is keep the Father and a life lived according to his will as the goal.

When tempted in the desert and in the Garden, the Lord resisted temptation and foiled the plans of the Evil One by putting the Father and his plan first. It is not so much that we are victorious if we simply do not sin or that we simply resist temptation – that is only half the battle.

It is by embracing virtue and embracing the Father’s will that we truly conquer sin and live a holy life. For us to have a holy Lent – indeed to have a holy life – God has to be the goal of all of it. If we do everything for love of him and neighbor like Christ, we are on the way to victory with Christ.

Also, like Christ, we know that the Father will never abandon us. The Lord received the help of angels when he needed it. The Father will also give us every help we need to succeed in holiness.

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