During Lent we have asked some of our church members, friends, and staff to respond to a one-word prompt. The word prompts reflect some of the themes we will be hearing in the Sunday Gospels.
Temptation… Awe… Change… Forgiveness… Judgment… Passion
First Sunday of Lent | March 10, 2019 | “Temptation”
At an era of my life long past, “temptations” were mainly those things that I longed for, but was not supposed to have: things like unhealthy foods or activities. Today, it seems that my greatest temptation is the nagging inclination toward inaction: to choose the easier path when I’m already feeling weary and depleted in everything from parenting to civic engagement.
But a modern-day prophet’s words have been ringing in my ears, as of late, making me face the truth of the matter.
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice ….”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
Keara Ette is the Director of Ministries at Old St. Patrick’s Church, and she hopes for a soul-stretching Lent.
I guess I most often consider “temptation” to be a religious or church word and a serious one at that. Curiously, “temptation” has found a new and different kind of life in the marketplace. It’s a brand name. Temptation Chocolates, Temptation Perfume, Temptation Resort (all inclusive – let your imagination wander), and even a reality TV show called (I cringe) Temptation Island are just some examples of temptation made cute.
If I’m willing to look beyond “temptation lite,” I’m sure there is more to consider. Leaning on a religious understanding, I suppose temptation speaks of those circumstances that lure and entice me into actions and behaviors that I know to be sinful. The power of temptation rests with my willingness to accept the illusion that these actions and behaviors, which are ultimately destructive of self, relationship, and community, are actually good or in some way will make me happy. The illusions are always compelling. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation,” and why through the centuries the Church continues to cling to The Lord’s Prayer in liturgical and private prayer.
Bob Kolatorowicz directs programs in Adult Spirituality/Educational Ministries at Old St. Pat’s.
The gospels show Jesus besieged by temptation in numerous settings, not only in today’s passage but throughout his life. We are sent forth in song from Sunday’s liturgy, led by the spirit, to “confront temptation”. In Luke’s writing, I am moved less by the artful acuity of Jesus’ response, but rather by his resilience and focus, for I believe the call to confront temptation lies in the need to avoid distraction: distraction from mission, distraction from love, and distraction from, as the opening song cleverly states, “action”. We have a model for the distraction-free, mission-focused life in Jesus Christ––and the key may partly lie in Luke’s opening sentence: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit…” Let this be the time that the Holy Spirit, the holy presence of God in our own lives, prepares us for action through focused attention to the original mission of Jesus.
Mark Scozzafave is the Director of Music Ministries at Old St. Pats.