So much has happened in this first week of Lent for me that my head is spinning. I am so overwhelmed, that I am experiencing a “writer’s block” of sorts. I do not know where to begin or what to write about for fear of becoming sidetracked or taking off on tangents.
For some uncanny reason the readings of Lent have been resonating loud and clear for me. Though I have heard the readings many times in my life there has been one word, one phrase, one tweak in some that have jolted me. Some readings seem like I have never heard them before, though I am sure I have. Here are some examples.
In the recent gospel of the Temptation of Jesus, it struck me that Jesus would have been extremely vulnerable to anything, especially temptation, due to his fasting for 40 days. Then I noticed that during the temptations both Jesus and the tempter were quoting Scripture. Jesus used it to take a stand against the temptations and the devil used it as a means not only to mock, but also to confuse or whitewash the enticement. Though I have heard and read this passage many times, I never pondered that the devil quoted Scripture. In our spiritual vulnerabilities, we need to be careful of false narratives under the guise of God’s word.
Speaking of temptation, a friend referred to me the 16th century treatise, The Spiritual Combat. I had never heard of it even though it has been in existence for over 500 years. What a gem of a read it is. I am using it as part of my Lenten devotion.
Other readings that have struck me were all those for the Friday after Ash Wednesday (Isaiah 58:1-9A, Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6B, 18-19, Matthew 9: 14-15). Isaiah and Matthew tell us about the correct way to fast. Where has Psalm 51 been all my life? It is so eloquent and sums up what God wants of us: a contrite and humble heart. What beautiful explanations of why we fast and what fasting truly is.
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Woven among the readings on temptation and fasting are surrender and mercy. Jesus surrendered himself to temptation and vulnerability; within that surrender, he had a humble and contrite heart that allowed him to resist the Devil. He gave us the perfect example of the benefits of surrendering ourselves to God. Spiritual Combat teaches us that even though we may repeatedly give into our temptations, if we seek God with a contrite heart, He will always welcome us back with open arms with a mercy we cannot even begin to fathom.
Temptation, vulnerability, contrition, the true meaning of fasting, surrender, and mercy have all been topics that have been in the forefront of my Lent and have left my head spinning. What will the next few weeks bring?
Copyright 2017 Michael T Carrillo
About the Author
Michael Carrillo is a retired police officer from a large California metropolitan police department. He is married to Vicki and they have five adult children between them. He is an unabashed fan of Jesuit education, though he regrets not obtaining one himself. Day hikes and walks give him opportunities and inspirations to look for and find God.