Temptations challenge and reveal our faithfulness

Friday, March 06, 2020 - Updated: 3:47 pm

By Father Richard S. Jones

There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. All around the world, people celebrate Lent as a time to reflect, refocus and prepare.

In 2019, Twitter employees sorted through more than 44,000 tweets that referenced the words Lent and giving up, finding the most popular things that people were sacrificing for Lent. The top five were, in descending order: social networking, like Facebook or Instagram; alcohol; Twitter; chocolate; and, strangely enough, Lent itself, deleting it from the landscape entirely.

Obviously, not everyone likes the idea of self-examination and sacrifice. Lent is an uncomfortable season in the church, but it’s supposed to be that way. For 46 days we are reminded of how much our sin separates us from God and how far God would go to heal that separation. So Bible passages about how sin entered the world are an appropriate way to start the season.

The story of creation and the fall of humankind in the Book of Genesis is significant for each one of us. The story commences with God’s goodness by placing human beings in a lush, lively garden with everything that one could possibly imagine. Thus, God bestows a blessing on humankind — for we have a rich and generous God and not a stingy and jealous God.

Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden began when they doubted God’s character, became the brokers of reality, of good and bad, and shortly lost sight of all the beauty and bounty that God had bestowed on them. Instead, they became fixated on the one thing that God had denied them — the Tree of Knowledge.

Humans succumbed to temptation and tried “to be” God rather than “obey” God. They began to justify their sin and selfishness. They lost sight of the goodness and holiness of God. We do the same thing when we focus on what we are denied rather than the many ways that God has blessed us.

We are born into a dysfunctional and distorted world through our first parents, Adam and Eve, who left us subject to ignorance, suffering and death, and inclined to sin. Lent invites and challenges us to come face to face with our fallen, sinful and unredeemed nature. Sometimes it is said that nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes, but temptation could be added as third on that list.

A mature Christian takes ownership for his or her choices and decisions. One must name, tame and claim our sins and take responsibility for the wrongs that we have done, and humbly ask God and those we have offended to forgive us.

Lent is the annual season of grace that affords us the opportunity to prepare ourselves to return home to God. Don’t try to rationalize with the devil, for you will not win. Like Jesus, we look to our heavenly Father for the strength and courage in the fight against evil. He will guard, protect and keep us safe from spiritual danger.

Father Jones is a chaplain at UPMC Mercy.

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