So it begins……..

Lent 2015 — Lets go Men……

Anyone actual reading this stuff? Amazing huh?

LENT DAY 9 — OBEYING GOD

One of the most dreadful stories in the entire Bible is the one the ancient Israelites called “the Akeda,” the binding of Isaac. The story is terrible, not simply because it involves human sacrifice, not only because it involves a father’s willingness to kill his own son, but because it seems to set God against God.

After all, Isaac was the son of the promise, the son of Abraham’s impossibly old age, the one through whom Abraham would become the father of many nations. Hoping against hope, Abraham had continued to have faith, even as he and his wife became old and then ancient. This faith was finally justified as Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac.

Then, some twelve years later, when Isaac was just coming of age, Abraham heard a voice commanding him to sacrifice this son to God, this beloved, bearer of the promise of God. God asks obedience of Abraham.

Now I know many of us might grate against calls to be obedient to authority. But obedience (which means, fundamentally, “listening”) is absolutely essential to the Biblical perspective.

Obeying God is nothing like obeying a politician or a president or a king. Such people are flawed and sinful and sometimes have to be opposed. But God isn’t like that. God is love right through; he wants only what is for our good.

Another important point: politicians and presidents and kings put out policies that we can readily understand, but God is essentially mysterious. We cannot, even in principle, fully understand what God is up to, what his purposes are. His commands — which will always be for our good — are nevertheless often opaque to us. And this is precisely why we have to obey, listen, and abide — even when that obedience seems the height of folly.

LENT DAY 8 — RESISTING THE LORDSHIP OF GOD

by Fr. Robert Barron

This past week we have looked at the temptation of the garden and the temptations of desert. All temptations have one thing in common: they entice us to resist the Lordship of God in our lives.

The first temptation began with the Great Lie in the garden; the lie that says we can live our best life outside the rules of God, that freedom requires unrestricted autonomy.

The three temptations Jesus faced in the desert are temptations we all face. Not the exact same things, of course, but his temptations represent three classic ways that we resist the Lordship of God in our lives.

First, we place sensual pleasure at the center of our concerns. We make eating, drinking, and sex the dominant concerns. But this is a source of great mischief, for only God can legitimately fill that central position. This is why Jesus must confront this temptation, feeling its full weight, and then resist it for us.

Next, we are tempted by power. From political dictators to tyrants within families and friendships, power is alluring. This is the temptation Jesus faces as he is brought to the highest mountain and offered all the kingdoms of the world. Once more, on our behalf, Jesus resists this temptation.

Finally, we are tempted to make honor our central pursuit. We want to raise our own reputation, be seen by everyone, be admired, be esteemed — this is the temptation Jesus faces when he is taken to the parapet of the Temple, the highest place in the society of his time and the place of supreme visibility. For the third time, Jesus confronts and resists this temptation for us.

This Lent, I ask you to reflect on where you are right now. What are you doing in the garden? Who is luring you and how? Are you buying into the Big Lie?

Where are you in desert? How do you stand up to the three great temptations: to sensual pleasure, honor, and power?

LENT DAY 7 — THE THIRD TEMPTATION

The first two temptations were straightforward enough: sensual pleasure and power. But this third one is more elusive. It is the temptation toward glory. It is the temptation to use God, to manipulate him, instead of becoming his servant: “Then the devil led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…’”

What does the Temple have to do with glory? There was no place more central in Jewish society than the Temple, no place more revered. Therefore, to stand at the very pinnacle of the Temple is to stand highest in the eyes of the world, with everyone watching you — even God. As the devil says to Jesus, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you…With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

This is the temptation to place ourselves above God, a temptation that all of us sinners are susceptible to. But Jesus replies, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Jesus himself is God, so he’s issuing a reminder to all of us: God remains God, and we must become his servant.

Having dealt with these three classic temptations, Jesus is ready for his mission. He knows who he is and who he is not. This is our challenge throughout Lent.

The Gospel passage then ends on an ominous note: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” Notice the words “for a time.” This is warning to all of us that temptation will return throughout our lives, often at key moments. It’s a summons to be ready, always ready.

LENT DAY 6 — THE SECOND TEMPTATION

Having failed at his first attempt to tempt Jesus in a direct and relatively crude way, the devil plays a subtler game: “The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.”

This is the more rarefied, more refined temptation of power. Power is one of the greatest motivating factors in all of human history. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Charlemagne, the Medicis, Charles V, Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Nixon, and Kissinger — all the way down to your boss at work. These are all people who have been seduced, at one time or another, by the siren song of power.

We notice something very disquieting in the account of this temptation: the devil admits that all the kingdoms of the world have been given to him. He owns and controls them. That is quite a sweeping indictment of the institutions of political power. But it resonates with our sense that attaining high positions of power and not becoming corrupt is difficult to do.

It might be useful here to recall the two great names for the devil in the Bible: ho Satanas, which means the adversary,and ho diabolos, which means the liar or the deceiver. Worldly power is based upon accusation, division, adversarial relationships, and lies. It’s the way that earthly rulers have always done their business.

A tremendous temptation for Jesus was to use his Messianic authority to gain worldly power, to become a king. But if he had given in to this, he would not be consistently a conduit of the divine grace. He would be as remembered today as, perhaps, one of the governors of Syria or satraps of Babylon (and do you remember the first-century satrap of Babylon?)

No, Jesus wanted to be the one through whom the divine love surged into creation, and so he said to Satan, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’”

LENT DAY 5 — THE FIRST TEMPTATION

The temptations Jesus faced may seem a little obscure to us, but, in fact, they lie at the heart of all human temptation. They are three classic substitutes for the good that is God’s will.

The first great temptation is to focus our lives on material things and the satisfaction of sensual desire: “The tempter approached and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.’”

Jesus is starving after 40 days of fasting. And he feels the temptation to use his divine power to satisfy his bodily desires. This is the pull toward hedonism-the philosophy that the good life is the physically-satisfying life. Food, drink, sex, material things, money, comfort, a secure sense of the future are the supreme values for many, especially in our culture.

Many, many people throughout history are waylaid by this powerful temptation. It is appealing because the desires are so basic. Thomas Merton said that the sensual desires — for food, comfort, pleasure, and sex — are like children in that they are so immediate and so insistent.

But our lives will never expand to greater depth as long as we are dominated by our physical desires. This is why in so many of the initiation rituals of primal peoples, something like fasting or deprivation is essential. It is also why initiation into a demanding form of life, like the military, often involves the deprivation of sensual pleasures.

When we give way to this temptation, it shuts down the soul, for the soul has been wired for God, for journey into the divine. When sensual desire dominates, those deeper and richer desires are never felt or followed. They are, as Merton said, like little children, constantly clamoring for attention, and never satisfied.

This is why Jesus responds: “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Life means so much more than sensual pleasure. Love, loyalty, relationships, family, moral excellence, aesthetic pleasure, and the aspiration after God are all so much more important. How tragic then when we think that life shrinks down to the contours of pleasure or bodily satisfaction.

LENT DAY 4 — UNDOING THE DAMAGE

At every point in the Gospels, we are meant to identify with Jesus. God became man that man might become God. We participate in him and thereby learn what a godly life is like. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Gospel story of the temptations in the desert.

Jesus has just been baptized. He has just learned his deepest identity and mission and now he confronts — as we all must — the great temptations. What does God want him to do? Who does God want him to be? How is he to live his life?

Now watch how, at every turn, Jesus undoes the damage of Eden caused by the Great Lie. The devil first tempts him to make his own sensual pleasure the center of his life, to measure good and evil by what sensually satisfies him. But Jesus reverses the momentum: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Next, Satan takes Jesus to the parapet of the Temple and tempts him to make his ego the center of his life, to make his own glory the measure of good and evil. But Jesus again counters: “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

And then the devil takes him to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world: “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” The temptation is to make power the center of his life, to make of his own authority the measure of good and evil. But Jesus replies: “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”

The account in Matthew ends with a critical line: “Then the devil left him.” At the word of Jesus, even Satan must depart. Let us remember that fact when we are tempted by the Great Deceiver.

LENT DAY 3 — THE GREAT LIE

Our God is a living God, and God wants us to share his life. This is why “God planted a garden in Eden…and he placed there the man he had formed.” In Eden he gave us near total freedom as a sign of his good will and his desire that we fulfill ourselves in every direction. Politics, art, science, literature, philosophy, music, sports, entertainment — all that conduces to human flourishing is desired by God.

But then enters the serpent. Like us, the serpent is a creature of God. He is totally dependent on God for his life. He is not some sort of co-equal rival to God. The Church has always taught that evil is parasitic on the good, not a substantive opponent.

Nevertheless, he is a wily opponent. He forces Eve to wonder about the prohibition: “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” When she clarifies, he says, “You certainly will not die! God knows well that the moment you eat of it you will be like gods knowing good and evil.”

This is the great temptation and the great lie. The serpent places in the minds of Adam and Eve the conviction that unless and until they determine the meaning and purpose of their lives, they will not be free. To put it in modern terms, their lives will not be lived to the fullest.

But the knowledge of good and evil is the godlike prerogative to set the agenda for one’s life, to determine the difference between right and wrong. And this belongs to God alone. Just as he breathed life and being into us, so he breathes moral and spiritual purpose into us.

When we convince ourselves that we live on our own terms, we cease to be truly free and alive.

When Adam and Eve grasped at this knowledge, they were expelled from the garden, not because God is vindictive, but because it is the natural consequence of making oneself into God.

When we grasp at divinity, whatever life we have dries up. We become small souls, locked in the prison of our egotism, victims of the Great Lie.

LENT DAY 2 — INTO THE GARDEN

We begin at the beginning by entering the garden. One of the first things we notice is that God planted a garden in Eden and placed the first humans in it. This tells us that God’s intention for us is a garden, a place of delight, color, vitality, energetic engagement of our powers. He wants us to have life and life to the full.

How does this life come to us? Through an acceptance of God’s grace and a willingness to let that grace flow through us to others — a state that existed at the beginning of Creation.

God gives the first humans, Adam and Eve, practically free rein in the garden. The Church fathers saw this liberty as expressive of God’s desire that we cultivate the earth and our powers as fully as possible, that we develop our skills as scientists, politicians, poets, lovers, and friends.

But there remains a tree from which we should not eat: “it is only from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘you shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’” Why does this symbolic tree stand in the very middle of the garden? Because it represents the criterion of good and evil, that over which God alone has control. It is the standard by which the good life is to be distinguished from the tragic life.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and desirable for gaining wisdom. When that fruit was seized, when the man and woman tried to appropriate godliness for themselves, when they — and by extension all of us — make ourselves and our own wills the criterion of good and evil, the flow of grace is interrupted.

So it goes in the order of sin. Our autonomy and independence from God looks desirable, but in fact, it leads to deep vulnerability. (Adam and Eve realized that they were naked.) Ultimately, it leads to the expulsion from the Garden and introduction into the desert of self-regard and fear.

LENT DAY 1 — BACK TO BASICS!!!!!

At the beginning of baseball season, the coach has to bring his players back to basics. He has to remind them of the three-point stance, the mechanics of throwing, the timing of a swing, the importance of keeping your eye on the ball, etc. It doesn’t matter how great of a season a player had the year before. He has to begin spring training with the basics because before he can do spectacular things in a sport, he must make sure he is doing the simple and elemental things well.

The same is true in the spiritual life. Lent is a time to get tuned up, to get back to basics, to remember the fundamentals. This is why the Church asks us to look at the beginning of the book of Genesis, the story of the creation and the fall.

We’ve heard it often; it’s probably emblazoned in our minds-but we need to hear it again: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” On Ash Wednesday, we hear echoes of this in the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Today we are reminded that our lives come from God. Our very existence comes from God. We are owed nothing. We have nothing coming to us. Every breath we take is a reminder of our dependency upon God; every beat of our heart is a reminder that God is the Lord.

As we begin our Lenten journey, let us take a few minutes to reflect on the reality that without God we are nothing and to give thanks that God loved us into being.

Friends,

On the cusp of this great season of Lent, which begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, I’m so excited to begin this spiritual journey with you. Together, we will join over 200,000 other Christians as we march toward the Resurrection of the Lord.

For many people, the big feast of the year is Christmas, but for Christians, the truly great feast is Easter. Without Easter, without the Resurrection, we would not have the gift of salvation. Jesus had to rise from the dead or else he would have just been another failed Messiah and his birth would be a forgotten footnote of history.

That’s why Lent is such an important time of year for us. It is the period when we refocus on the passion and death of Jesus so that we will be ready to embrace the good news of the Resurrection at Easter.

During the next forty-seven days, we will be looking at the great themes of our salvation, from the Temptation of Adam and Eve to our Redemption at the Cross. As we move through the pages of time, the story of our salvation will unfold.

So, as we begin with Ash Wednesday and its reminder of repentance, let us resolve to do our best each day, knowing that it is not the destination, but the journey that will ultimately transform us.

Peace,

Fr. Robert Barron

Father Barron always does a wonderful job with lots of extra content

for Advent and Lent. I sent out updates everyday during Advent and never received and feedback (except from Tom).

If you would like me to run this section from Father Barron separate from my dailies, let me know what you think? Otherwise I will just link you to his stuff in the Dailies. My thought was at least here with this “Medium” you could take you time, explore, always go backwards or forwards (I always keep this intact from beginning to end), its up to you.

Peace my friends and here is a new Pre-lent teaser from Father Barron called Heroic Priesthood.

I will find this on YouTube and link it for you after it Airs.

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