Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenten Centerpiece: Meditations Week Two

The Temptation of Christ, Fra Angelico

This week , we will remove the bowl of ashes or dirt from our Lenten centerpiece.  Over the bottom of the tray, spread a layer of sand or sandy soil. During the remaining weeks of Lent, we will each week add something to this sandy foundation that will recall to our minds our Lord's suffering and death.  Here's what my tray looks like this week:
This is sandy soil, but you could use sandbox sand

It's very plain and even stark.  It isn't pretty.  But our Lord's sufferings weren't pretty, either.  As we think about His time in the desert, this simple sand will be a constant reminder that Jesus suffered for us.
Our meditations this Second Week of Lent will focus on Jesus's trial and temptations in the desert just after He was baptized by John in the Jordan River.  Throughout Lent, the meditations will return to this time of temptation as we consider the example Jesus gave us in this trial of holiness and as we think about how we, too, might resist temptation and grow in holiness.

The Baptism of Christ, Verrochio
Meditation #1:   When Jesus began His ministry, He went first to John the Baptist to be baptized.  He didn't need to have any sins forgiven, because He didn't have any, but He wanted to give us an example of what we should do.  As soon as He was baptized, He went out into the desert.  Today, as we look at our centerpiece, what do we see?  Yes, sand.  The sand represents the forty days Jesus spent in the desert suffering and praying for us.  Lent is a time when we especially recall these forty days our Lord spent in the wilderness for us.  The Bible tells us what happened while Jesus was fasting and praying in the desert: 

Judean Wilderness
Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.   And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.   Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.   Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,  
And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.   Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.  Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,  And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.  Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.
Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.~Matthew 4:1-11

During Lent we will be thinking more about Jesus and what happened to Him in the desert.  For now, let's talk about what we know about deserts.  What was it like for Jesus to spend forty days in the desert wilderness? (discussion about desert conditions-hot, dry, no shade, little water, cold at night, wild animals, etc.)  
Jesus, we thank you that you suffered for us in the wilderness.  You resisted temptation and defeated Satan.  Please help us fight temptation and become holy throughout this Lent.  Amen.

Meditation #2: Jesus is God.  He has reigned eternally with God in Heaven.  He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.  For our sake, because He loved us so much, He set aside His royal power and glory and became a man.  He suffered in the desert, and He even died.  The Bible tells us:

Worship of the Five Wounds
For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.  He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names:  That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: ~Philippians 2:5-10

Jesus set aside all of His power and might so that He might come to us and save us from death and sin.  The sand in our tray reminds us that part of His suffering was forty hot, blistering days without food and with little water in the desert.  Jesus spent His time in the desert praying for us, so that we might become holy.  Let us try to follow Him as we pray and sacrifice during Lent.

Meditation #3:  The ancient Jews believed that the desert was the place of wild animals and the haunt of demons.  It was a dangerous, lonely, and desolate place.  Here, our Lord went to resist the devil and to overcome him.   Do you remember that Adam and Eve had fallen into temptation in a garden?  Well, Jesus was tempted, too, but He did not sin.  The Bible tells us:

For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. ~Hebrews 4:15

So, because Jesus wanted to come and help us, He had to endure temptation, just as we do.  Jesus was like a second Adam, a second chance to start the human race over without sin!  And, unlike the first Adam who failed and sinned and lost grace for all of us, Jesus was triumphant and holy and gained our grace back!  Because of Adam's sins, we must one day die.  Because of Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross, we will one day live forever in Heaven.  
Do you remember what our sand reminds us of?  Yes, the time Jesus suffered for us in the desert for forty days.  During that time, Jesus prayed.  He prayed for the Church, He prayed for His Apostles, and He prayed for everyone that would believe in Him throughout all the ages.  He prayed for you and for me.  Let us remember whenever we are tempted that Jesus Himself prayed for us in that desert, that we might have victory over every temptation in our lives with His mighty help. Let us think about how much our Lord loves us, that He suffered so much to make it possible for us to be in Heaven with Him forever.

Q. 229. What was the devil's name before he fell, and why was he cast out of heaven?
A. Before he fell, Satan, or the devil, was called Lucifer, or light-bearer, a name which indicates great beauty. He
was cast out of heaven because through pride he rebelled against God.

Q. 230. How do the bad Angels act toward us?
A. The bad Angels try by every means to lead us into sin. The efforts they make are called temptations of the devil.

Q. 231. Why does the devil tempt us?
A. The devil tempts us because he hates goodness, and does not wish us to enjoy the happiness which he himself
has lost.

Q. 232. Can we by our own power overcome the temptations of the devil?
A. We cannot by our own power overcome the temptations of the devil, because the devil is wiser than we are;
for, being an Angel, he is more intelligent, and he did not lose his intelligence by falling into sin any more than we do now. Therefore, to overcome his temptations we need the help of God.

Q. 314. What do we mean by our predominant sin or ruling passion?
A. By our predominant sin, or ruling passion, we mean the sin into which we fall most frequently and which we find it hardest to resist.

Q. 315. How can we best overcome our sins?
A. We can best overcome our sins by guarding against our predominant or ruling sin.

Q. 316. Should we give up trying to be good when we seem not to succeed in overcoming our faults?
A. We should not give up trying to be good when we seem not to succeed in overcoming our faults, because our
efforts to be good will keep us from becoming worse than we are.

Q. 317. What virtues are opposed to the seven capital sins?
A. Humility is opposed to pride; generosity to covetousness; chastity to lust; meekness to anger; temperance to
gluttony; brotherly love to envy, and diligence to sloth.

Baptism and Temptation,  Veronese



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