Fasting and sacrifice, the hallmarks of Lent. These are often hard to follow particularly because of the focus given to them. It’s like when someone says “don’t look down!” You have this reflex to immediately want to look down. And when Jesus asks you to “go without,” the first thing you crave is whatever you gave up for Lent. I love donuts, but I don’t eat them all the time. Normally, not having one for a few weeks is no big deal. But when I give them up for Lent, I feel like all I see driving through town are donut shops.
Our 40 days of Lent mirror Jesus’ 40 days in the desert when he prepared himself for his ministry. As Fr. Nnamdi Moneme summarizes on Catholic Exchange:
“He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Satan pressured Him to turn stones to bread, jump down from the temple and worship him. Jesus neither fled from the “wild beasts” in the desert nor yield to the tempter; but He resisted till His Father acted and sent Him ministering angels, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him.”Mark 1:13
We are among “wild beasts” in our lives as well. But those wild beasts are the temptation to sin or break our Lenten observance. And sadly, I’ve fallen to these wild beasts more than once in my life. Many years ago, I would give up a dozen things for Lent knowing full well I would break most of them. I would then claim victory because I kept one or two of them by the time Easter came about. I told myself those were the ones I meant to keep all along. Clever right? It was Lent by process of elimination which defeats the point. It’s like telling people that you fasted for an hour; it’s a really low bar.
Satan’s Hunting Season
Unfortunately, when we resolve to fast and sacrifice during Lent, Satan doubles his efforts to make us fall. Fr. Moneme goes on to say:
In our temptations, we are pressured by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh to act immediately to meet what we consider our pressing needs. We are pressured to act so that we do not “miss out” on some advantage or benefit, even if we cannot exactly describe what exactly we are missing out on.
It’s not like I’ll never have another donut or glass of wine again. It’s just 40 days. But Satan or our hunger has a way of overpowering that logic and creates a pressing need. Satan knows that we made a promise to God which makes the fall and our discouragement all the greater. For Satan, Lent must be a great “hunting season” since he knows the added burdens the faithful place on themselves.
What are we to do? Again, let’s look at Fr. Moneme’s advice:
We can start by choosing to do the will of God at the present moment while we postpone our thinking about the temptation. We can say, “Today, I want to do the will of God for me. Tomorrow I can think about this temptation.” We can constantly and consistently postpone thinking about the temptation by repeatedly saying day after day, “Tomorrow I can think about it. For now, I want to do the will of God.”
Keeping Satan on Hold
It’s like we’re scam-baiting Satan. Scam-baiting means keeping a scam phone call going for as long as possible so you tie up the scammer’s time. While he’s wasting his time talking to you, he isn’t scamming a more susceptible victim. We can tell Satan, “maybe tomorrow.” And when we do that day after day, a few things happen. First, we build up strength knowing that we can resist temptation. Second, with God’s help, we start to realize that pressing urge really isn’t that important. Third, Satan will realize his efforts aren’t working and will go look for easier prey.
And what RosaryMeds post would be complete without talking about the Rosary? Given the length of praying the typical five decades (about 20 minutes), it’s a good amount of time to ride out whatever craving or temptation you have. I’ve said in the past when you are earnestly praying the Rosary, you can’t be sinning at the same time. When you feel tempted, take your beads out of your pocket (because naturally, you have them with you at all times) and start praying. Think of Rosary prayer as your spiritual “break in case of emergency” box. Mary will help you through it.