Do you ever get a craving for a specific food or drink – like if I don’t get this soon I am going to murder someone?! Think about this – on Ash Wednesday what is the one thing you want the most … meat! But you can’t have it. A few weeks ago while on vacation, I said to my travel buddy – I’m craving a burger! So, one night we went to this local pub, and you know something … it wasn’t that great. I was disappointed. It was overcooked and didn’t have much flavor. For my physical hunger, I was satisfied, but it didn’t really bring me any joy. And why is that… because a burger, cooked perfectly and tasting great or not, cannot fully satisfy the longings of the heart. This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel today – what truly matters, how to put Him first above all else.
Notice what St. Luke says at the onset of these temptations – He was hungry … in the most humanly way possible – like all of us on Ash Wednesday, like myself for that burger… He was hungry. And the temptations are very specific … turn stone to bread, have earthly power; throw yourself down and be carried away … what do they signify: The first temptation is that of pleasure … like my craving for a burger, this is about our physical needs, pleasures… the desire for food, drink, intimacy, and love. The second is about power … earthly power, influence, and control over others… think of politicians and celebrities. The third is about pride and vanity … wouldn’t it be a spectacular show if you threw yourself off the Temple and got carried away by your angels? In each case, He rejected the offer using scripture to back Him up, always without sorrow or regret, with clarity of purpose and understanding of what He was rejecting. We might well say that what He rejected was . . . everything: riches, goods of the world, overwhelming honors, and power beyond the reach of any man. And why? Its not what He was hungry for … not for these earthly desires… why? Because it doesn’t last. It does not have the eternal capacity to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.
It can be really satisfying to vent our anger, or fill up on our favorite food – to indulge in the things that make us feel good … but inevitably, we will be hungry again, we will get angry again… Do these things bring us real joy? For what are we hungry? See, this is what Lent teaches – in the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving we are being trained to put Him first above all else, learning just how to reject pride, pleasure, and personal glory in order to prefer, to hunger for the things of God… Be hungry therefore for God …Pope Francis gives us a little advice on just how to hunger for the things of God … adapted I believe from a Lenten poem by William Ward he says:
- Fast from Hurtful Words – Feast on Kindness
- Fast from Sadness – Feast on Gratitude
- Fast from Anger – Feast on Patience
- Fast from Negativity – Feast on Hope
- Fast from Worrying – Feast on Faith and tTrust
- Fast from Complaining – Feast on Simplicity
- Fast from Pressures – Feast on Prayer
- Fast from Bitterness – Feast on Joy
- Fast from Selfishness – Feast on Compassion
- Fast from Grudges – Feast on Reconciliation
- Fast from Words – Feast on Silence and Listening
In addition to this advice… Spend time in adoration, come to our devotions and Mass during the week, go to confession … In these ways can we begin to make Lent meaningful, in these ways we can begin to hunger for God and know of the ways in which He satisfies the longings of our hearts.