Fasting and abstinence on Wednesday. Abstinence on Friday. As we follow our traditions in Lent most especially on the prescribed days, we might notice we are ‘tempted’ in various ways on these days. Our bodies are not going to shut down, we’re not going to experience total shock or total withdraw, but we might experience enough to find our mouth watering when we see a TV commercial with a big juicy steak or we might find ourselves really focussed on what we might otherwise glance over in the refrigerator. As disciples, these are moments when we should really try to think of Jesus. As wonderful as it might be, our minds are usually not disciplined enough to reflect upon our Lord on the Cross, but we should intentionally think of Him in the desert as we hear in today’s Gospel.
Jesus fasted to prepare Himself for what was to come. He took on a weakened state to test His strength. In weakness, the Evil One preyed upon Him. Jesus, fully human and fully divine welcomed His humanity to be tested. “God humbled Himself and became man” we hear St. Paul say in his letter to the Philippians. Not only in the act of becoming man did He humble Himself, but as a man he fasted in humility to test the strength of His humanity. That was Him, and here we are, fully human, with the same Holy Spirit within (given to us through Baptism, enlivened at Confirmation) need to joyfully and willingly accept fasting into our lives, and allow our weaknesses to be tested. And as St. Paul often noted too, in our weaknesses we find our strength.
We may not be tested in the exact same way Jesus was, but our weaknesses are all different. But we will be tested, and through fasting and prayer we can be assured that if we reflect upon our trials, our weaknesses, if we seek to encounter the Lord when we’re tested we too can be assured that by faith and with courage, we too will find our strength within.
Jesus had greater tests to come than the forty days of fasting. We’ll be keenly aware of those tests as we head into Holy Week. We will likely have many greater tests in our lives than the fasting and abstinence that we undergo adhering to the practices of our faith tradition. But just as for our Lord, so too for us are we preparing ourselves through these sacrifices we make for the greater challenges that lie ahead. Today, as we reflect upon our Lord’s temptation, may we grow in holiness and commitment to our faith through our own temptations and challenges. May God bless you.