As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to break this bridge?" "No," the builder replied, "I'm trying to prove that the bridge won't break." In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren't designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn't. (Today in the Word, March 14, 1991).
The first Sunday of Lent starts with forty days of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days and nights, to do battle with the tempter, the devil. 40 is an important number in the Bible. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights while Noah and company were in the ark. For 40 days Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted and prayed to prepare themselves for a life's work. In the New Testament, not only did Jesus fast for 40 days and nights, His Ascension into heaven occurred 40 days after the Resurrection.
Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, culminated in the temptations of the devil. He was strong enough to survive them. Our 40 days of Lent are given to us to strengthen us to continue the battle against the tempter. The Church gives us this time to listen more closely to God, and to grow in our relationship with him – and that means putting God first.
There is a story of Mary. There was a bowl of candy sitting on the coffee table in the living room of Mary's house. Mary's mother noticed that she was looking at the candy and said, "Now, don't you eat any candy until after dinner or you will spoil your appetite." The candy looked so good and the temptation was so great. "Surely just one little piece won't hurt - and mother will never know the difference," Mary thought to herself.
Food is good, necessary, satisfies the hunger temporarily, but it won’t fill our hearts.
Success is good, necessary to make out life valuable, but it won’t fill our hearts.
The honor of others is good, necessary to feel accepted, but it won’t fill our hearts.
We need all of these to a certain extent, but above all we need God, who can fill emptiness in our heart… so if we want to invite God, death should take place in our life. Lent is a season of death and resurrection. Our life is ongoing death and resurrection.
Prayer: die to something in order to grow in personal prayer, participate in weekend Mass, and if our schedule allows, attend weekday Mass.
Fasting: Fast from something and try to increase our ability to share our time/treasure with someone and/or with God.