Sunday, February 17, 2013

First Sunday of Lent-Day Five

On this first Sunday of Lent, the first reading reaches back to the story of God freeing the Israelites from slavery. This image is picked up in the New Testament with Jesus freeing us from the great slavery that all human beings experience, the slavery to sin. By his death and resurrection, we have received the grace we need to be truly free.

The Gospel however reminds us that this is not freedom from temptation. Each day of our life we experience many temptations. The most basic temptation is to seek pleasure and avoid pain, without reference to right, wrong, or consequences.

We have often heard it said that human beings are creatures of habit. Habit however is not a bad thing. We need habits. They help us to respond appropriately when we are surprised and do not have time to carefully think through our decisions. The habit of doing the right thing we call virtue. By developing virtue, with practice, we are able to do the right thing even when we don't "feel like it."

The opposite of virtue however is vice, those habitual ways of behaving that are contrary to what God would have us do. In this first week of Lent, perhaps it is a good time for us to look at ourselves and take stock. What are the virtues that are present in our daily lives, those habitual ways of behaving that are in accord with God's plan for us? And while it is more difficult, we should also look at our vices. What are those habitual ways of behaving that we most need God to help us change?

We are always going to experience temptation. But if we have developed virtues, habits of responding appropriately, then we can more easily overcome the temptations that happen in our daily lives.