Ash Wed PicBenedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how Lent slaps us in the face every year.  It challenges us to live a life that is focused on who we were created to be.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the First Sunday of Lent and send us a comment . Please read Mark 1:12-15

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/26/2012The 1st Sunday of Lent.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 1.(9-11)12-15.
    It was Ash Wednesday, I was tired and because I have a doctor ordered low carb diet to begin with, my energy level was very low from fasting.  I was finally sitting on the couch at the end of the day watching brainless television, all cozied up in a blanket and numb to the world.  Up to the open front door of our house bounds my lovely, energetic thirteen year old who decides to ring the door bell and stand outside instead of walking in the open door.
    Alcoholics Anonymous says that you ought not react to anything when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, but I did.  Swinging my blanket off of my warmth, I got up, just as she decided waiting was fruitless. Her entry after I had given up what I thought was my final resting place for the day, was my final straw, “Why did you ring the doorbell?” I barked.  Then it hit me, this is how Jesus felt when tempted in the desert and he prevailed.
    Immediately, I said, “I’m sorry.  I let my own life get in the way of loving you.”  Thankfully, my pookie is forgiving.  She said she understood and jokingly, “tucked me in because you are too tired to be human today, Daddy.”
    Christianity is about being.  It is about being who we were originally created to be.  In the Garden of Eden, we were created to be loving.  We were created to be God focused, human focused and lovers of the creation.  In the midst of our self-absorbed objectification of the people and world around us, we come face to face with Lent.  We come face to face with a God who decides not to destroy us for our selfishness as we deserve.  No, instead he places a rainbow in the sky as a promise that no matter how awful WE are, HE will love us.  Incredible!  We come face to face with a calling for all Christians from our Baptism in the reading from 1 Peter, to be saved and renewed to be who we ought to be as humans.  We come face to face with Jesus, who according to St. Mark, is wet from baptism and immediately thrown out into the desert to begin his ministry with a period of temptation.
    Lent, it brings us face to face with our sin.  We cannot run from it.  We cannot hide from it.  What do we do with it?  We face it.  We face it down with the dissolving power of the forgiveness and love of God.  We turn Satan’s temptation on its ear by offering the invitation to our ruin as an offering to God.  We turn the disease of temptation as way to purify us from our natural tendencies to love our selves over God, love our desires over the lives of other human beings and love our wealth over the tenderness of the environment.  We load upon ourselves tiny little temptations in the forms of giving up chocolate, soda pop, candies, deserts, to remind us that from ashes we have come, to ashes we will return.  It all seems a little absurd to me, but there it is, in the Scriptures.
    Christians are not to be little faint hearted spiritual wimps.  We are to have it in perspective that the battle has been fought by Jesus and God has won.  We should turn and face temptation with stiffened jaw and a hearty resolve that says,
“Get behind me!  The love of God is stronger than the power of the Devil.  The Love of God is stronger than the weakness I feel.  The love of God is stronger than the temptation to give in to worldly lusts.  The love of God is stronger than my desire to allow others to starve so that I can make my fortune.  The love of God is stronger than my desire to treat a fetus as an impediment for me to live as I wish.  The love of God is stronger than my desire to drive down the wages of the poor and to treat others as if their lives are less important than my need to have wealth.  The love of God is stronger than consumerism, euthanasia or any other mindset that would cause me to put my desire over love of God, profits over humanity or fortune over the earth that God has given us.”
Living the Christian life is part of Salvation History.  It is part of the grand sweep of inviting others to know Jesus Christ and be invited into the new heaven and new earth at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Living the Christian Life is fulfilling the purpose of humanity to love God, love neighbor and to care and tend the earth as God would.  Being a Christian is be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world that has so focused our lives on success, fame, fortune, self-obsessed loving, and the desire to cut down anything or anyone who gets in the way.  We are to be in this world, but definitely not of it.
So, in the face of temptation to climb the corporate ladder, seek to deflate wages, seek to destroy human life, seek to build ourselves up as we take the world down, who are we?  Are we followers of the world?  Or, are we followers of the one who spent forty days and forty nights being tempted by these same temptations and said, “Not my will, but thine, O Lord?”   Are we people who understand the mission of baptism to be only our salvation?  Or, do we understand that our mission is that everyone who is baptized has a common mission to seek to understand so that Christ would be understood?  Do we understand that our common mission is to go into the world and call out through our example AND our words, “Repent. Believe the Gospel!”?  
As we reflect on the meaning of Lent, its focus on our temptation and our “sacrifice”, where will WE be converted?  Where will WE be changed, not just for these forty days, but for a lifetime?  How will we go forth to love God, love neighbor and love creation with all our heart, soul, mind and intellect?  What changes are we going to make in our daily routine, our career, the focus of our company, the focus of HIS plan for our lives?  Whatever those plans are, I say one thing to us all this First Sunday of Lent, “Repent! Believe the Gospel in your everyday life.”  Amen?  Amen.
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