Lent: Stories and Illustrations

ILLUSTRATIONS: 

From Father Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1) Alluring music of the Sirens:

In Greek mythology the sirens are creatures with the heads of beautiful women and the bodies of attractive birds. They lived on an island (Sirenum scopuli; three small rocky islands) and with the irresistible charm of their song they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island (Virgil V, 846; Ovid XIV, 88). They sang so sweetly that all who sailed near their home in the sea were fascinated and drawn to the shore only to be destroyed. When Odysseus, the hero in the Odyssey, passed that enchanted spot he tied himself to the mast and put wax in the ears of his comrades, so that they might not hear the luring and bewitching strains. But King Tharsius chose a better way. He took the great Greek singer and lyrist Orpheus along with him. Orpheus took out his lyre and sang a song so clear and ringing that it drowned the sound of those lovely, fatal voices of sirens. The best way to break the charm of this world’s alluring voices during Lent is not trying to shut out the music by plugging our ears, but to have our hearts and lives filled with the sweeter music of prayer, penance, word of God, self control, and acts of charity. Then temptations will have no power over us (RH).  
2) “On the ninth trip around the block, there it was!"

A comical, but illustrative, story shows us how adept we are at rationalizing our actions: A very overweight man decided that it was time to shed a few pounds. He went on a new diet and took it seriously. He even changed his usual driving route to the office in order to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at the office carrying a large, sugar-coated coffee cake. His office mates roundly chided him, but he only smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, "What could I do? This is a very special cake. This morning, out of my forced habit, I accidentally drove by my favorite bakery. There in the window were trays of the most delicious goodies. I felt that it was no accident that I happened to pass by, so I prayed, 'Lord, if you really want me to have one of these delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking place in front of the bakery.' Sure enough, on the ninth trip around the block, there it was!" Temptation is strong, but we must be stronger. We should not tempt fate and we should not rationalize our actions. 

3) Temptation to keep carnivore pets:

Antoine Yates lived in New York City and for some inexplicable reason brought home a 2-month-old tiger cub and later an alligator. It’s not clear where he found them. But they were with him for two years — in his apartment. What was a little tiger cub, became a 500 pound Bengal tiger monstrosity. It was inevitable. The police got a call about a “dog” bite and when they got to the 19-story public housing apartment building, they discovered Yates in the lobby with injuries to his right arm and leg. Someone alerted them of the possibility of a “wild animal” at his apartment. A fourth-floor resident complained that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates’ apartment. When they arrived, the police peered through a hole and saw the huge cat prowling around in the apartment. To make a long story short, it took a contingent of officers at the door, and some rappelling from the roof to use a dart gun to bring this animal under control. When they entered the apartment, they found the big cat lying atop some newspapers. The alligator was nearby. Both animals were relocated to shelters. As for Yates, he missed the tiger, demonstrating that’s it’s possible to be in love with the very things that can kill you. That is what happens to those who entertain temptations in the form of evil thoughts and desires, evil habits and addictions.  

4) I'm Sorry, Father:

A Catholic priest working in an inner city was walking down an alley one evening on his way home when a young man came down the alley behind him and poked a knife against his back. "Give me your money," the young man said.

The priest opened his jacket and reached into an inner pocket to remove his wallet, exposing his clerical collar. "Oh, I'm sorry, Father," said the young man, "I didn't see your collar. I don't want YOUR money."

Trembling from the scare, the priest removed a cigar from his shirt pocket and offered it to the young man. "Here," he said. "Have a cigar."

"Oh, no, I can't do that," the young man replied, "I gave them up for Lent." 

5) I'm already working on a murder case!"

The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants - who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. "Okay," began the sheriff, "What is 1 and 1?" "Eleven," came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, "That's not what I meant, but he's right." Then the sheriff asked, "What two days of the week start with the letter 'T'?" "Today & tomorrow," replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself. "Now, listen carefully. Who killed Abraham Lincoln?” asked the sheriff. The job-seeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, "I don't know." The sheriff replied, "Well, why don't you go home and work on that one for a while?" The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, "The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I'm already working on a murder case!" In our Gospel reading this morning, in Matthew 4, it is Jesus' first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Would he take the crown without the cross? 

6) “I only want to get my nose in:”

An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the door of the tent where he was sleeping. “It’s very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced,” said the camel, “you may leave; as for myself I shall stay where I am.” “Give but an inch,” says Lancelot Andrews, “and the devil will take an ell; if he can get in an arm, he will make shift to shove in his whole body.” 

7) Devil’s timing:

In basketball, things change much more quickly than in football. Partly because there are three-point shots; partly because of the trumping effect of last second foul shots; partly because the basketball court is still the same size its always been while players are all now seven feet tall, weigh 250 pounds and can dunk from the free-throw line - the score, the balance of power, in any game seems as though it can change in an instant. In basketball, two minutes left on the clock is an eternity. Entire games are played, entire lifetimes are lived, in those last two minutes. Unless your team is down by more than 20 points, you still have a chance. That's why the most nail-biting, hair-raising, ulcerating, blood-pressuring moments in sports are in the last 10 seconds of neck-and-neck basketball games. In the last few seconds of a one-point game the test becomes not of skill, or style, or strength. No: at that crunch-point everything comes down to timing. In the big game - the game of life - timing is everything. Does anyone doubt the devil's timing when he arrived to accompany Jesus after forty days and forty nights of fasting in the wilderness? Jesus was exhausted, hungry, alone, tired, wobbly. The devil wrongly calculated that he would be a perfect victim. But his timing is often perfect when he tempts us.  

8) “The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows." A group of mountain hikers came across an old woodsman with an axe on his shoulder. "Where are you going?" they asked him.” “I’m headed up the mountain to get some wood to repair my cabin." "But why are you going up the mountain?" they asked incredulously. "There are plenty of trees all around us here." "I know," he said, "but I need strong timber and it grows only on the highest elevations, where the trees are tested and toughened by the weather around them. The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows." And that is what God desires for us — that through the winds of trial and the storms of temptation we may grow strong and live on a higher level — strong to resist the devil's urging, strong to serve God, and strong as we stand together in faith and service to one another. Take my advice — stay close to each other, worship regularly and often, avoid temptation when it comes your way, and fill your hearts with God's word.  

9) “Micro-chipped” their dogs and cats.

An increasing number of responsible pet owners have now “micro-chipped” their dogs and cats. A small “chip” is injected under the skin and when a special scanner is run over the chip, the creature’s whole history is made available—-pet’s name, owner’s name, home address, home phone, vet’s name, vet’s phone, medications taken. It’s all there. Most animal shelters now have these scanners. When a lost or wandering animal is brought in, “scanning” is the first procedure. Often the “lost” is “found,” immediately. Parents of teenagers have gotten the message too. An increasing number of parents—-with or more often without their teen’s knowledge—-“bug” their kid’s car to keep track of where they are at all times. Tiny spy cameras can also keep an eye on driving habits, speed, and who gets in and out of the car. . . . I see some teenagers looking at their parents very nervously right now. . .More familiar are parental controls put on e-mail accounts, alerting mom and dad when inappropriate web sites are accessed or e-mails received. For example, we have an AOL alert on our 10- and 12-year old’s email accounts. But think again. Even in such a “Big Brother is watching” world, the truth is there is just too much temptation, and too strong an urge to misbehave, to ever keep track of everything. Today’s gospel teaches us how to defeat temptations using Jesus’ techniques.  

10) "What did you miss the most?”

After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was riding on a train. A man came up to him and asked, "What did you miss the most down at the South Pole?” Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things. Some of them they didn't mind missing, and others they did; some they were very glad to get away from. He said he was discussing that very thing in the middle of the six months long Polar night with one of the Irishmen in the camp, Jack O'Brien. Byrd asked, "Jack, what are you missing most from civilization?" Jack answered without any hesitation, "Temptation." Temptation is a very real part of life: temptation to stray from the values we hold dear, temptation to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to find the easy way through.  

11) ”A man who has no more temptations.”

In the stories of the Desert Fathers there is one concerning Abbot John the Dwarf. Abbot John prayed to the Lord that all passion be taken from him. His prayer was granted. He became impassible. In this condition he went to one of the elders and said: "You see before you a man who is completely at rest and has no more temptations." The elder surprised him. Instead of praising him, the elder said: "Go and pray to the Lord to command some struggle to be stirred up in you, for the soul is matured only in battles." Abbot John did this, and when the temptations started up again, he did not pray that the struggle be taken away from him. Instead he prayed: “Lord, give me strength to get through the fight." [Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New York: New Directions, 1960), p. 56-57.] 

12) 'Run, D.J., run!'

William H. Hinson tells about an amusing article that appeared in his local paper. Over the past several years in Houston, Texas there has been a rash of incidents in which dogs have attacked small children. As a result, the newspapers have run several stories about the attacks some of which have been pretty gruesome. There was one, however, involving a little boy called D.J. that was not so tragic. A reporter asked D.J. how he managed to come away from a recent dog attack unharmed. You can almost picture the serious expression on the little guy's face as he said, "Well, right in the middle of the attack, the Lord spoke to me." "Oh, really," asked the reporter, "And what did God say?" "He said, 'Run, D.J., run!'" the young man reported. [William H. Hinson, Reshaping the Inner You (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988).] There may have been times in your life in which God has whispered, "Run, Jim, run!" Or "Run, Sally, Run!" Particularly is this a valuable message when we are tempted by the devil. 

13) “I'm back, thanks to God “

Betty Hutton was a famous movie star and huge box office attraction back in the 40's and 50's. But, Betty Hutton became lost. Family problems, emotional problems, illness, bankruptcy, depression, and alcoholism stole her life away. In her trouble she cried to the Lord, and the Lord heard her cry. The Lord delivered her from the forces of wickedness, restored her soul, and called her life back to order, making her a new person. As a new woman, Betty Hutton made a comeback in the theatrical world playing Mrs. Hennigan in the Broadway musical Annie. At the first performance, the program notes contained extensive biographical sketches of the cast members-except for Betty Hutton. Under her picture and name were five words, “I'm back, thanks to God.” [James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1994).] Somebody here today needs to experience down in his or her heart, God's great delivery and write on the biography of his or her life, “I’m back, thanks to God.”  

14) Confess your corporate sins:

A moving documentary on Abraham Lincoln shows us that the revered American president considered the civil war to be a great sin. But the greater offense against the Almighty, in Lincoln’s mind, was the sin of slavery. In his Second Inaugural address Lincoln said, “If God wills that [this war] continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: ‘The judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether" [A Documentary History of the United States edited by Richard D. Heffner (New York: The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1956), p. 157.] Lincoln believed that there would be no redemption for this nation until our corporate sin was confessed. But Lent and Lincoln have now been vaporized by a culture that refuses to face its violent and racist history. To confess our corporate sin is to admit weakness, to disclose our vulnerability, and to diminish our self-esteem. Thus, we indeed resemble the culture, which H. Richard Niebuhr so aptly described two generations ago when he wrote, "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” [“The Kingdom of God in America,” (New York, Harper Brothers, 1937), p 193.]  

15) “Now, that’s temptation:”

William Willimon in his book “What’s Right With the Church” (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers 1985) tells about leading a Sunday School class that was studying the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After careful study and explanation of each of the three temptations, Dr. Willimon asked, "How are we tempted today?" A young salesman was the first to speak. "Temptation is when your boss calls you in, as mine did yesterday, and says, 'I'm going to give you a real opportunity. I'm going to give you a bigger sales territory. We believe that you are going places, young man.' ‘But I don't want a bigger sales territory,’ the young salesman told his boss. ‘I'm already away from home four nights a week. It wouldn't be fair to my wife and daughter.’ ‘Look,’ his boss replied, ‘we're asking you to do this for your wife and daughter. Don't you want to be a good father? It takes money to support a family these days. Sure, your little girl doesn't take much money now, but think of the future. Think of her future. I'm only asking you to do this for them, the boss said.” The young man told the class: “Now that’s temptation.”  

16) "You knew what I was when you picked me up"

We are often tempted by material things, opportunities, and possibilities of contemporary life - items that we generally know will only lead us away from God. The choice to avoid such temptations is ours and, thus, we must be wary of their allure. A Native American folk tale describes this problem: One day an Indian youth, in an effort to prepare for manhood, hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees and decorated with many lovely flowers. There he fasted and prayed, but on the third day he looked up at the surrounding mountains and noticed one tall and rugged peak capped with snow. He decided that he would test himself by climbing this mountain. Thus, he put on his buckskin shirt, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, and set out to climb the peak. When he reached the top he looked out from the rim to the world so far below. Then he heard a rustling sound and, looking around, saw a snake slithering about. Before he could move, the snake spoke to him, "I am about to die. It's too cold for me up here; I am freezing. There is little food and I am starving. Please put me under your shirt where I will be warm and take me down the mountain." The young man protested, "No. I have been forewarned about your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up you will bite me and I might die." But the snake answered, "Not so. I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special to me, I will not harm you, and you will receive whatever you want." The young man resisted for some time, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful diamond markings. At last the young man tucked the snake under his shirt and carried it down the mountain. Once in the valley he gently placed the snake on the ground. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and then bit the man on the leg. "You promised me!" cried the youth. "You knew what I was when you picked me up," said the snake, which then slithered away. 

17) “First, I want to hear that harmonica!"

A young man was sent to Spain by his company to work in a new office they were opening there. He accepted the assignment because it would enable him to earn enough money to marry his long-time girlfriend. The plan was to pool their money and, when he returned, put a down payment on a house, and get married. As he bid his sweetheart farewell at the airport, he promised to write her every day and keep in touch. However, as the lonely weeks slowly slipped by, his letters came less and less often and his girlfriend back home began to have her doubts. "Spain is filled with beautiful women," she wrote, "and after all you are a handsome man." When he received that letter, the young man wrote her right back declaring that he was paying absolutely no attention to the local girls. "I admit," he wrote, "that I am tempted. But I find myself so busy with my work that I have no time for such foolishness." However, in the very next mail delivery, the young man received a package from his sweetheart. It contained a harmonica and a note. "I'm sending you this harmonica," his girlfriend wrote, “so you will have something to take your mind off those girls." The young man wrote her back, thanking her for the gift and promising her that he would practice the harmonica every night and think only of her. Finally, after months of waiting, the day came for him to return to the States and his sweetheart was waiting for him at the airport. As he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up restraining hand and said sternly, "Hold on there. First, I want to hear that harmonica!" She was a wise young lady. She knew the power of temptation and the weakness of the human heart. And so did Jesus

18) “Get behind me Satan.”

Experiencing martial problems a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work. Within a week things where getting back to normal in their household. The husband quit making his weekly stop at the tool section in the local hardware store and his wife who was chronic spendthrift obsessed with purchasing the latest fashions ceased buying dresses every time she went out to the mall. For whenever they got the urge to spend money they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, “Get behind me Satan” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did I heard a response” “Yah and what was that response” growled back her husband. “Well I heard him say, “It looks better from the back than it does from the front!” (sent by Deacon Gary) 

19) Give Up: GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines.

GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.

GIVE UP looking at other people's worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.

GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?

GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."

GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God's grace be sufficient.

GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit some lonely or sick person.

There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a precious gift: your time!

GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God's riches, not consumers.

GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ. (Craig Gates, Jackson, MS, "What to Give up for Lent") 

20) If we were….

If we were knives, Lent would be a time to sharpen out cutting edges. If we were cars, Lent would be a time for an oil change and a tune-up. If we were swimming pools, Lent would be a time to filter the dirt out of our water. If we were gardens, Lent would be a time to fertilize our soil and dig out our weeds. If we were carpets, Lent would be a time to get power-cleaned. If we were VCRs, Lent would be a time to clean our heads and adjust our tracking. If we were computers, Lent would be a time to overhaul our disk drive. If we were highways, Lent would be a time to repair our cracks and fill our chuckholes. If we were TV sets, Lent would be a time to adjust our focus and our fine-tuning. If we were silverware, Lent would be a time to clean away our tarnish. If we were batteries, Lent would be a time to be recharged. If we were seeds, Lent would be a time to germinate and reach for the sun.

But we are none of these things: We are people who some times do wrong things; we have to atone for them. We are people who sometimes get spiritually lazy; we need to get back into shape. We are people who sometimes become selfish; we need to stretch out of our narrowness and begin giving again. We are people who sometimes lose sight of our purpose on earth and the immense promise within us; we need to regain our vision. And because we are also people who sometimes tend to put those things off, we need a special sort of official time to concentrate on doing them. So we have Lent. The Easter candy will taste sweeter, the Easter flowers will bloom more brightly, the Easter Sunday sun will shine more warmly if we are a better people – and all because of how we spent these forty days. (http://www.stagnes.rcec.london.on.ca/lenten.htm) L/11  

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From Sermons.com: 

21) Robert Penn Warren wrote a novel called All The King's Men. It was the story of a governor of Louisiana and his rise to power. His name was Willie Stark.

At the end of his story he is shot down dead. Here was a man who gained a kingdom and lost all he ever had.

Two thousand years earlier a man from Galilee said, "What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lost his soul?" Perhaps when He made that statement He was not only addressing it to those who heard Him, but also was looking back to a time of decision in His own life.

There is something so very curious about the man from Galilee. He has captivated the imaginations of people throughout twenty centuries. He transcends time and place, culture and custom, race and language. Something there is in Him that always speaks clearly to us. We see it throughout the gospels, everywhere He went, in everything He said and did. Son of God and Son of Man, we know He became one of us.

While He is the answer to all our struggles, we see Him struggling with the things He faced. And, as He finds the way for Himself He finds the way for us as well...
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22) The word "Catholic" comes from the Greek katholike, meaning "for all."  

We all remember the great rallying cry of the French guards known as the "Musketeers": "All for one, and one for all!" That loyalty tied the Musketeers together. The safety, the life, the fate, of each individual guardsman depended upon the actions of his fellow soldiers. "All for one, and one for all" wasn't just a motto. It was a lifeline. 

In this week's Romans text Paul reminds us that there are two sides to an "all for one" existence. For human beings, Paul recalls, "sin came into the world through one man . . . and so death spread to all, because all have sinned." In other words the consequences of Adam's "one for all" actions were universally deadly. Adam's transgression, his sin of disobedience to God and looking out for himself, spread throughout the human race like an unstoppable virus. Through that "one for all" act each new generation has been born carrying that deadly virus. 

Yet Paul also declares that it was Adam's "one for all" action that serves as a "type," a template for "The one who was to come." In the "free gift in the grace of one man, Jesus Christ," a new act of "one for all" transformed a sure death sentence into the offer of salvation and life. Though the First Adam's "trespass led to condemnation for all," the Second Adam's "righteousness leads to justification and life for all." Jesus Christ's obedience to God's word and will led him to the ultimate "one for all" action on the cross for our sake and salvation.

The outrageous gift of Christ's "one for all" sacrifice demands each of us to incarnate in our lives the other half of that Musketeer motto -"all for One"...  
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 23) The Tempter Turns Our Strengths Against Us

 One night a well-known and highly respected preacher was working on his sermon for the following Sunday. His little son came in and asked his daddy to come tuck him in. The father told him to get into bed and he would come in a few minutes to give him a goodnight kiss and tuck him in. But then, he became engrossed in his preparation, and much later, he remembered the promise. He went into his son's bed room only to discover that the little fellow was already asleep. That story is heart-breaking because it has a familiar ring to it. His passion to be a good preacher - a good thing - had tempted him that night to be a bad father. Do you see what happened? The tempter even turns our strengths against us if we are not careful.
James McCormick, Selected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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24) The Strong Timber Is Tested

A group of mountain hikers came across an old woodsman with an axe on his shoulder. "Where are you going?" they asked him.

"I'm headed up the mountain to get some wood to repair my cabin," replied the woodsman.

"But why are you going up the mountain?" they asked incredulously. "There are plenty of trees all around us here."

"I know," he said, "but I need strong timber and it grows only on the highest elevations, where the trees are tested and toughened by the weather around them. The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows."

And that is what God desires for us - that through the winds of trial and the storms of temptation we would grow strong and live on a higher level - strong to resist the devil's urging, strong to serve God, and strong as we stand together in faith and service to one another.

Lee Griess, Return to The Lord, Your God, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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25) The Fast and Temptation of Christ

This Gospel is read today at the beginning of Lent in order to picture before Christians the example of Christ, that they may rightly observe Lent, which has become mere mockery: first, because no one can follow this example and fast forty days and nights as Christ did without eating any food. Christ rather followed the example of Moses, who fasted also forty days and nights, when He received the law of God on Mount Sinai. Thus Christ also wished to fast when He was about to bring to us, and give expression to, the new law. In the second place, Lent has become mere mockery because our fasting is a perversion and an institution of man. For although Christ did fast forty days, yet there is no word of his that He requires us to do the same and fast as He did. Indeed He did many other things, which He wishes us not to do; but whatever He calls us to do or leave undone, we should see to it that we have his Word to support our actions.

Martin Luther, The Fast and the Temptation of Christ
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26) We Want Freedom

Humans are always declaring their freedom, wishing for more "space," announcing that they belong only to "themselves." We want to be free from the enslavement of the kitchen, or from confinement of a job we don't like.

Airplane companies claim to set us free, and medical companies says the same. There are deodorant companies which promise to set us free from the worry of underarm wetness and odor; a certain toothpaste declares we can be set free from dull teeth. Then we are promised freedom from pain by Tylenol, Excedrin, Bayer, and others. Other products play on our desperation for freedom by telling us we can be free from "ring-around-the-collar," and Lysol sets us free from germs. We want freedom to sleep at night with a clear conscience, freedom from fear of death, and above all, freedom from the terrors of the judgment day.

A teen-age boy told his parents he was going to run away from home. "Listen," he said, "I'm leaving home. There is nothing you can do to stop me. I want excitement, adventure, beautiful women, money, and fun. I'll never find it here, so I'm leaving. Just don't try to stop me!" As he headed for the door, his father leaped up and ran toward him. "Dad," the boy said firmly, "you heard what I said. Don't try to stop me. I'm going!" "Who's trying to stop you?" answered the father, "I'm going with you!"

Barbara Brokhoff, Bitter-sweet Recollections, CSS Publishing Company
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27) How Are We Tempted Today?

William Willimon, in his book What's Right with the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), tells about leading a Sunday School class that was studying the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After careful study and explanation of each of the three temptations, Dr. Willimon asked, "How are we tempted today?" A young salesman was the first to speak. "Temptation is when your boss calls you in, as mine did yesterday, and says, `I'm going to give you a real opportunity. I'm going to give you a bigger sales territory. We believe that you are going places, young man.'

"But I don't want a bigger sales territory," the young salesman told his boss. "I'm already away from home four nights a week. It wouldn't be fair to my wife and daughter."

"Look," his boss replied, "we're asking you to do this for your wife and daughter. Don't you want to be a good father? It takes money to support a family these days. Sure, your little girl doesn't take much money now, but think of the future. Think of her future. I'm only asking you to do this for them," the boss said.

The young man told the class, "Now, that's temptation."

Jesus overcame his first temptation by putting his complete trust in God. That's a good example for us. We're so concerned about "having it all." The wise person trusts that God will provide all that he or she needs.

William Willimon, adapted by King Duncan,

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28) We're Kind of Stupid That Way

In the very first Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Calvin's dad is working on the car, when Calvin walks up in a safari hat and says, "So long, Pop! I'm off to check my tiger trap! I rigged a tuna fish sandwich yesterday, so I'm sure to have a tiger by now!" His dad replies, "They like tuna fish, huh?" As Calvin walks off, he says, "Tigers will do anything for a tuna fish sandwich!" The final frame shows Hobbes, hanging by his foot from a tree, munching on a tuna fish sandwich. He says to no one in particular, "We're kind of stupid that way."

Every day we are tempted to be less than we can be. Without giving it much thought, we choose what's easiest. We seldom consider how much more is possible. We take tuna fish when we could do better. We're kind of stupid that way.

Brett Younger, Disabling Temptations
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29) Forty Days for Recommitment

Lent was originally established for new Christians, those who experienced a call. They were to spend forty days and forty nights preparing for their baptism. If at the end they still wanted to follow Jesus, then on Easter Eve they would be baptized as the sun was rising in the east, signaling the new day, the new era, inaugurated because of the Resurrection.

I am sure it had a powerful significance for them, to have prepared for their vocation as Christians the same way that Jesus prepared for his vocation as the Messiah: forty days of introspection and self-examination.

But later the Church used the forty days as a time of renewal for those who were already Christians, because at a certain point everyone in the empire became a Christian, everyone was baptized as infants. So the time of Lent was used as a time of renewal and recommitment to the Christian life, examining our lives in light of the one we are supposed to follow.

Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

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From Fr. Jude Botelho:

 
Temptations An American Indian was giving testimony about temptations. He said, “My brothers, I seem to have two dogs fighting in my heart. One is a very good dog, a beautiful white dog. He is always watching over my best interests. The other is a very bad dog, a black dog, who is always trying to destroy a lot of things that I want to see built up. These dogs give me a lot of trouble because they are always quarreling and fighting.” One of his hearers asked him. “Which one wins?” The young man said immediately, “The one to which I say: ‘Lic em’!” –Shades of: “If you walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh….”
H.A. Ironside in ‘Tonic for the Heart’

In the gospel we are reminded that just as the first Adam was tempted, so the new Adam, Jesus Christ was also tempted. Just as Adam and Eve had to make a choice so Jesus too had to make choices and re affirm his obedience to doing the will of his Father. Unlike Adam, he made an irrevocable decision to do the Father’s will no matter what the consequences. In today’s gospel we see Jesus being tempted by Satan. It is a common practice for great religious leaders to go to a remote place to be alone with God and their own thoughts as they prepare to undertake some new direction or vocation in life. Jesus prepares himself by forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert. The prayer and fasting is not an end in itself but a preparation for his mission. Our own prayer and fasting during this season of lent is not an end in itself but a preparation for our conversion and reconciliation with God. For Jesus the temptations came in various forms and were related to the happenings of his life. After fasting for several days Jesus was hungry and was tempted to use his power to satisfy his bodily needs. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.” But Jesus was not to be put off, he used the word of God to ward off temptation. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Again he was tempted by Satan to throw himself from the parapet of the temple and force the hand of God into doing something dramatic and flashy. Jesus rejects the sensational way as not God’s way. “You will not put the Lord God to the test.” Still Satan never gives up, he never sleeps, he has yet another try: “I will give you all the kingdoms of the world if you will fall at my feet and worship me.” Jesus is tempted by the offer of power and possessions, but he rejects Satan once more with the power of the word of God. “Be off Satan! Scripture says, ‘You must worship your God and serve Him alone!'

Is it a saint or a horse?
Once upon a time a very earnest young man visited a famous rabbi. He told the rabbi he wanted to become a rabbi and asked for his advice. It was winter time. The Rabbi stood at the window looking out into the yard while the rabbinical candidate gave him a glowing account of his piety and learning. The young man said, “You see, Rabbi, I always dress in spotless white like the sages of old. I never drink any alcoholic beverages; only water. I perform numerous penances. For instance, I always carry sharp-edged nails inside my shoes to mortify me. Even in the coldest weather, I lie naked in the snow to punish my flesh. And to complete my penance, I take a dozen lashes every day on my bare back.” As the young man spoke, a stable boy led a white horse into the yard and took him to the water trough. The horse drank his fill of water, and having done so rolled in the snow, as horses sometimes do. “Just look!” cried the rabbi. “That animal too is dressed in white. It also drinks nothing but water, has nails in his shoes and rolls naked in the snow. Now I ask you, is it a saint or is it a horse?” –The point the rabbi was making was that penance is not an end in itself. What is the purpose of penance? It is not meant to undo the past, nor is it meant to persuade God to erase our sins. We undertake penance to acknowledge we are sinners and we desire to change our lives.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

Leading to temptation
A young boy was forbidden by his father to swim in the canal near their home. One day the boy came home carrying a wet bathing suit and his father asked him where he had been. The boy calmly stated that he had been swimming in the canal. The father was angry and said, “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” The boy assured him that he had. The father wanted to know why he had disobeyed him. The boy said, “Well, Dad, I had my swimming suit with me, and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” Furious the father asked the boy why the boy had his bathing suit with him. The boy answered with total honesty, “So I would be prepared, just in case I was tempted.”
James Valladares in ‘Your Words O Lord are Spirit and they are life.’

Do not be deceived by temptations

A successful female executive stood before the Pearly Gates, facing St. Peter himself. “Strange,” mused St. Peter, “while I think it over, I’ll let you experience a day here and a day in Hell.” So the woman spent an entire day lounging on clouds, playing the harp and her 24 hours passed quickly, and then she was transported to hell, where the devil took her to a beautiful country club where she found many of her old friends having a great time. Before she knew it, her 24 hours were up, and she was back at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter said. “I’ve considered your placement and decided I’ll let you choose where you wish to spend eternity.” She replied. “Well, Heaven was nice, but, no offense, I had a great time in Hell.” And back down she went. But this time she found herself in a desolate wasteland covered with garbage. Her friends were still there, but now they were dressed in rags, picking up garbage and carrying it from one pile to another. “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. Yesterday when I was here, there was a golf course and we ate lobster and drank, and danced the night away, having a wonderful time. Now everyone is slaving away shoveling garbage.” The devil looked at her and smiled. “Yesterday we were recruiting you. Today, you’re staff!”
Tomi Thomas in ‘Spice your homilies’

We can begin again
It is reported that Thomas Edison’s laboratory was virtually destroyed by fire in December 1914. Although the damage exceeded $ 2million, the buildings were only insured for $ 238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s work literally went up in smoke on that fateful December night. At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles frantically searched for his father among the smoke and debris. He finally found him, calmly watching the scene, his face glowing in the reflection, and his white hair blowing in the wind. Said the sympathetic son, “My heart ached for him. He was 67 –no longer a young man – and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me he shouted, “Charles, where is your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.” The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver his first phonograph!
James Valladares in ‘Your Words O Lord are Spirit and they are life.’

Giving into temptation!
A story is told of a wealthy woman who travelled to Europe with several friends. Her husband stayed home and played the stock market. While in Paris she found a fur coat that was the most beautiful she had ever seen. She sent a telegram to her husband that said, “Have found the perfect coat for only $50,000. What do you think?” He replied immediately with a telegram saying, “No, price too high.” Imagine his surprise when she returned home with that $50,000 coat. The angry husband said, “Didn’t you get my telegram?” “Yes,” she said, “and here it is.” The husband looked at that telegram which said, without punctuation, NO PRICE TOO HIGH.” He forgot to put the coma after NO. – The devil, however we may image it –is persistent, and in daily life we often grow discouraged when we have to face the same temptation over and over again. Being tempted is an opportunity to turn more fervently to God. With God’s help we can resist all temptations.
John Pichapilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

“Make me once more the boy I was when I was fifteen.”
A priest who spent several years as a school chaplain tells the following story. Late one night one of his past pupils, now a young man, came to see him. He had a sad and murky story to tell. After leaving school he entered the world of work. There unfortunately, he got involved in crime. He told the priest that he now wanted to get rid of it. Then he made a most unusual request. He said, “Father, make me once more the boy I was when I was fifteen.” The boy’s earnest request moved the priest deeply. The young man knew that he had tarnished himself. Now he felt a longing for the unstained innocence of his boyhood. Just as Adam and Eve lost their original innocence, so the boy had lost his childhood innocence. But the priest could see that within that young man the boy who had made his first Holy Communion still survived. There is in every human heart, a longing for the lost Eden. No matter how old we may be, Jesus makes it possible for us to be reborn in innocence of character. Now is that moment of salvation!
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’