Ashes and Temptations
1st Sunday of Lent C

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

This is the first Sunday of Lent. We are in the beginning of the forty-day season of penance, prayer, and almsgiving. This is our own Exodus and desert experience - just as Israel had to go through the desert for forty years before reaching the Promised land. This will be our time of purification and testing – just as Jesus was tested during his forty days of fasting in the desert.

Action starter: Prepare to make a good confession this Lent.

We begin this season by the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. We were reminded about our mortality, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We were reminded not just of our physical frailty but also our moral and spiritual frailty. We were reminded of our need for repentance, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Indeed we are frail. We come from the soil (humus). We are human. We are also prone to temptation. If sin is described as turning away from God and turning towards the creature ,“aversio a Deo, conversion ad creaturam”, then a temptation is nothing more than an attraction towards idolatry. It is to make something else more important than God. It is to make gods out of creatures.

Jesus was tempted to make the satisfaction of his physical appetite the more important thing in his life, “command this stone to turn into bread”. Don’t we make physical pleasures as our god? He was tempted by the devil to worship power as a god, “I will give you all this power”. At the great cost of human lives, aren’t some people obsessed with the pursuit of power? Finally, the tempter wanted Jesus to give in to popularity “throw yourself down from here”. It was a senseless action – throwing oneself from a high tower. Its sole purpose was to show the world that He did something spectacular - the man who jumped from the tower and survived. Some people pursue popularity – sometimes even to the point of selling their soul.

It is because we are frail and prone to give in to temptation that the celebration of Lent makes sense. We admit our frailty and sinfulness. We acknowledge our need for salvation. We also take the effort to open ourselves to the workings of God so that with His grace we may be stronger to resist temptations. Despite our failures, we restate our intention to live a life worthy of our calling as daughters and sons of God.

As humans we prostrate ourselves and go closer to the soil from which we come as we pray, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.”