By Bonnie Sestito
(With apologies from the blog editor–due to a technological glitch this post did not go live on the First Sunday of Lent as scheduled.)
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. 14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” -Mark 1:9-15 (NIV)According to Wikipedia Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.
I remember when I was growing up, my Catholic friends would give up candy for Lent. As an adult I worked with a man who was Greek Orthodox and he would do a fast giving up dairy and meat. I never gave up anything until last year when my pastor challenged the congregation to give up something during the Lenten season. It didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted to give up. My doctor had been encouraging me to stop drinking Coca-Cola for some time, so I decided I would stop drinking it for the Lenten season. I like Coke, and I especially crave it when I’m stressed. It wasn’t an easy task. I faced temptation on a couple of occasions but I reminded myself of the purpose, which was to give up or deny myself of something to help me remember daily the need for repentance and to fix my eyes on God. I needed to stay focused and I needed to be strong in will. At the end of the Lenten season I was happy that I was able to accomplish this task. I couldn’t stop drinking Coke for my own health, but I could for God at least for forty days.
As women and girls of God, think about what things come between you and God as we enter the Lenten season. How many times have you made excuses, or tried to justify a wrong choice, or just simply caved into temptation? Reflect on the determination that Jesus had when constantly faced with temptation in the wilderness. Prepare yourselves in prayer. Challenge yourselves by fasting or denying yourselves of something. There are lessons to be learned about yourselves and about your relationships with God.