Jesus our Model for Lent - Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving

Homily for First Sunday of Lent Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and tested by the devil for forty days. During this time Jesus proved his love for his Father was stronger than everything else. Our love for Jesus leads us to want to draw closer to Jesus during Lent and overcome anything in our lives from the devil that keeps us apart from Jesus. Jesus in the desert is our model during Lent. If Jesus had given in to any temptation of the devil he would have wrecked his Father’s plans. When we give in to temptation we wreck God’s plans for us. Sin separates us from what God intends for us. Sin separates us from God. It has been like that since the first sin, the sin of Adam in the Garden of Paradise. As a result of that sin Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden. Sin separates us from Jesus. But our love for Jesus impels us to want to overcome sin during Lent so that we will not be separated from Jesus. Our love for Jesus impels us to take Lent seriously so that at the end of Lent we will be closer to Jesus. Do you love Jesus enough to fix whatever in your life is separating you from Jesus? Lent is the time to do it. Do we love Jesus enough to take Lent seriously so that at the end of Lent we can say we gave up this sin or overcame that sinful inclination so that we could be closer Jesus? Do we love Jesus enough so that when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at the end of Lent we can also celebrate Jesus’ new life in us because we overcame sin during Lent? Do we love Jesus more than anything keeping us from Jesus? Lent is the time to draw closer to Jesus.

When we are ill we go to the doctor and the doctor writes a prescription. If we take the medicine we hope to get better. For centuries the Church has recommended medicine during Lent to help us get better, to bring us closer to Jesus and help us overcome sin. That medicine is the three things we heard in the Gospel on Ash Wednesday (Matt 6:1-6, 16-18); prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are a remedy to help cure our soul. This remedy is the wisdom of centuries of experience; the experience of centuries of holy people who drew closer to God during Lent with the remedy of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Not only is this remedy the wisdom of centuries of experience of holy people, it is the teaching of Jesus. As we heard in the Gospel on Ash Wednesday it is Jesus who taught us about prayer, who taught us the value of fasting, who taught us the value of almsgiving. Why would someone question what Jesus taught us and say there is a better way during Lent? Jesus in the desert is our model during Lent. Our love for Jesus leads us to want to draw closer to Jesus during Lent and overcome anything in our lives from the devil that keeps us apart from Jesus. We can do this through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

We could say that the three Scripture quotations in today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) that Jesus used to rebuke the devil when tempted in the desert are about prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve (Luke 4:8, see Deut 6:13)

was Jesus teaching us to put God first in prayer and worship.

Man does not live by bread alone (Luke 4:4, see Deut 8:3)

was Jesus reminding that fasting shows God is more important to us than any earthly thing we desire.

You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test (Luke 4:12, see Deut 6:16)

was Jesus reminding us not to test God by expecting God to intervene to look after those in need but instead to help them ourselves.

To pray we need quiet time. We cannot pray if the TV is turned on, or there are other distractions around us. We often read in the Gospels that Jesus went up into the mountains to pray (Matt 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12; 9:28). It was quiet up there. If Jesus needed quiet for prayer, how much more do we need quiet for prayer? Can we find quiet time every day to spend with Jesus and Our Lady? We read that Elijah hid in a cave, and a windstorm went by but God was not in the windstorm, there was an earthquake but God was not in the earthquake, there was a fire but God was not in the fire. Finally a gentle breeze went by and Elijah knew God was in the gentle breeze (1 Kings 19:11-13). To find God we need a place of gentle breeze in our life every day. A Church or Adoration Chapel is an obvious place but can we also as a family pray together for a significant length of time at least once day? The Rosary is a wonderful prayer for use together as a family. Recently one of the bishops of this country has drawn attention to church documents teaching that Gregorian chant be given pride of place during Mass. One could say that this type of reflective music is more akin to the gentle breeze in which Elijah recognized the Lord. One of my joyful memories from seminary is Gregorian chant during every Sunday Mass. We call the music during Mass sacred music but what could be described as unsacred music has been creeping in gradually. The Church has guidelines for sacred music so that we may better hear the Lord speak to us.

Jesus was asked why his disciples did not fast while the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist fasted. Jesus replied that the while the bridegroom was with them it was not the time to fast but when the bridegroom would be taken away then it would be time for them to fast (Matt 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). Now is that time. We can fast from TV for a time and that would give us more time to pray so then we would be fasting and praying together. We could also fast from the internet for a time so spend more time with family. Above all of course Lent is about giving up sin. All the fasting of Lent is to give us greater strength to fast from sin. Fasting is for Jesus.

Almsgiving is an expression of our love of God and love of others. When we love God we love others in their need and give to them from our surplus because they are also children of God. That is why we begin the Lord’s Prayer saying, “Our Father…” because we are all children of one Father in heaven. Once when talking to the Pharisees when they were concerned about externals Jesus said that if they gave alms then they would be clean (Luke 11:41). On another occasion Jesus said that giving alms earns you a purse that never grows old and treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33). Jesus taught the parable about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man did not even give the scraps to the poor man. But when they died the poor man was in heaven the rich man in agony.

We could say that the three Scripture quotations in today’s Gospel that Jesus used to rebuke the devil when tempted in the desert are about prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve (Luke 4:8, see Deut 6:13)

was Jesus teaching us to put God first in prayer and worship.

Man does not live by bread alone (Luke 4:4, see Deut 8:3)

was Jesus reminding that fasting shows God is more important to us than any earthly thing we desire.

You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test (Luke 4:12, see Deut 6:16)

was Jesus reminding us not to test God by expecting God to intervene to look after those in need but instead to help them ourselves.

When we are ill we go to the doctor and the doctor writes a prescription. If we take the medicine we hope to get better. For centuries the Church has recommended medicine during Lent to help us get better. That medicine is prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the First Sunday of Lent Year C

Overcoming Satan during Lent like Jesus in the desert 2007

Related Homilies: Overcoming Sin and Temptation during Lent - Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving

Dying and Rising with Jesus during Lent

Overcoming Temptation and Giving Up Sin during Lent because We Love Jesus 2008
Decide to Overcome Sin

Reliving the temptations of Jesus

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