“I’m Not Like Those People!”

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In today’s Gospel (Matt. 4:1-11) Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days where he is tempted by the devil 3 times. Christians have been listening to this same Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent for 1,500 years, since the 5thCentury. 

Today’s Gospel is timeless. Each generation throughout history has its own set of temptations to deal with. 

Our First Temptation today is to neglect our inner life.This is probably our most severe temptation of all. Some years ago Newsweek magazine had on its cover a single word: EXHAUSTED. The article inside relates how the syndrome of exhaustion is depleting most Americans. 

It points out that modern technology has not emancipated us, but enslaved us. One woman put in 70 hours a week at work leaving little or no time for herself, her family or friends. It went on to say that grandpa put in long hours working in the mines or on the railroad. But when he came home, there were no faxes waiting for him to answer, no e-mails or cell phones to interrupt his dinner. 

Home was home, not a pit-stop for gathering data before heading back to the office or school. Today there is no down time, no escape from other people. We have smart phones that ring, beep and send us endless texts and e-mails. We carry them to Disney World, the beach, the bathroom and even to bed with us. This means that a lot of people are working 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It is a formula that pushes us to the edge and sometimes over the edge. 

The magazine article ends with a photo of a young man sitting at his computer. The caption below says that this software executive fully accepts the pressures of his 15-hour a day job, even eating in front of his computer. 

The reason he says he is doing this is because the potential payoff is so big – SOMEDAY! He spends 15 hours a day, eating alone in front of a machine. What is our universal American cry? “THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH TIME!” There is never enough time to cultivate our inner life and our relationships. This is our first and our severest temptation. Do you recognize it? I do….as I eat my bowl of cereal or my sandwich in front of my laptop computer.  A God Notice

The Second Temptation for us modern people is to hang on to our emotional garbage. With so many broken relationships, divorces and mobile lives, we are so tied into debilitating memories and experiences. 

One woman was telling a friend at her new workplace about how awful her old boss was. Her friend just laughed and said: “So forget him and just enjoy it here.” The woman went on to tell a little story about herself. She said that when she recently moved she had professional movers do it. 

When the movers asked her what to pack, she waved her hand and said, “Everything!” So when she got to her new home, she not only found the furniture, she found all of her old garbage – newspapers, empty bottles and orange peels. She was trying to tell her new friend that she got the message.

What emotional garbage are you and I carrying around with us? The hurts, the betrayals, the sin, the guilt? Lent is the time to hand them over to God and get on with life. This is where the sacrament of Reconciliation really helps. The temptation is to hang on to our emotional garbage.  A God Tap

The Third Temptation is to say that you and I are different. What do I mean? Several years ago on Ash Wednesday I got a call from a young man I knew. He was struggling with his graduation studies and problems with his family. He was crying out for help.

When we sat down and talked, I found a tortured soul, filled with self-doubt and drinking heavily. I was able to get him to go to AA. But after a few meetings, he wouldn’t go back. He admitted to being an alcoholic, but he wouldn’t go back to the AA meetings. Why? He told me: “I’M NOT LIKE THOSE PEOPLE!” 

Our Third Temptation is really strong……When we convince ourselves that somehow we are different, that we don’t have limitations and addictions like other people…..That we don’t need Lent or Jesus’ help like other people who are so weak….That Lent is for the daily church goers, the retired, or the people with time on their hands…..That I don’t need that kind of help…..That I know how to take care of my own problems……BECAUSE I’M DIFFERENT!  A God Flash

These are the Three Temptations for us modern folk: to neglect our inner life, to hang on to emotional garbage and to declare that we are different. 

Today’s scripture readings directly confront such temptation and boldly proclaim that for Lent we must go into the desert and face TWO REALITIES – OUR TEMPTATIONS and OUR GOD. The devil’s words are so easily understood and followed. So often our conscience is but a whisper. 

How are these Three Temptations a part of your life? How can you overcome them this Lent? 

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