Feb. 17 is the First Sunday of Lent (Liturgical Year C, Cycle I). Feb. 13 is Ash Wednesday, which is a day of mandatory fasting and abstinence from meat but is not a holy day of obligation, though many people go to Mass.
"What are you giving up for Lent?" is a good question. To be friends with Jesus, we need to share that experience with him and join him where he is.
During Lent and Holy Week, suffering is "where he is."
We also fast to remind ourselves that the pleasures of the body are not the most important things in life and to awaken spiritual hunger inside us.
Ideas for Adults
Fast by eating one full meal, with no snacks, one day a week.
Skip meat an extra day (or two) a week.
Give up alcoholic beverages.
Give up coffee (or reduce to one cup a day).
Give up all desserts.
Give up all unnecessary shopping.
Fast from music or talk radio in the car.
At TheGregorian.com, find prayer aids for the Rosary, daily prayer and the guide "How to Pray a Holy Hour."
Begin (or begin again) the daily Rosary.
Meditate for 10 minutes a day (get a Magnificat to follow the daily Mass readings).
Choose one extra devotion per week during Lent: Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic adoration or a weekday Mass.
Read a book on the life of Christ. For example: Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth or Venerable Fulton Sheen’s The Life of Christ.
Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s 74-page section on prayer (less than two pages a day!).
Visit a nursing home with your children.
Forgive someone and patch things up in a visit, or, if necessary, by phone or letter.
Find one "act of forgiveness" to make every day toward someone else: a driver who cuts you off, a co-worker who annoys you, a shopper who cuts in line, a store clerk who is rude or a family member who ignores your needs.
Say a kind word to everyone you meet.
Pay one significant compliment (or more!) to each of your children every day.
Offer to watch the children of a new mother one day a week throughout Lent.
Visit an elderly friend or relative.
Save up a significant amount of money for a deserving charity or apostolate.
Ideas for Children and Teens
Young people: If none of the adult ideas work for you, try:
Do chores without complaining.
Draw pictures of Holy Week events every Friday and Sunday.
Restrict your TV, Internet or music time.
Restrict your phone time.
Send a letter or picture to a grandmother, aunt or godparent.
Make a new friend outside your "crowd."
Be a friend to a shy person.
Give up that bad place, person or thing.
Choose a favorite toy, book or piece of clothing and put it away until Easter.
Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalms 91:1-2, 10-15; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13
"No one who believes in him will be put to shame." That is the message in today’s second reading, and, in a way, it is also the message of the Gospel and first reading as well.
In the Gospel, Jesus undergoes the three temptations. They tell the story in miniature of the mission he is about to undergo.
First, his mission will entail helping others, healing their bodies and souls. This is referenced by the first temptation to turn stones to bread. Satan encourages Jesus to think of the human experience solely in terms of material things. But his true mission is to bring people the Word of God, not just material comfort.
Second, his mission will entail him teaching the radical message of humility, poverty and weakness.Satan encourages Jesus to worship him in order to win the world; but as Jesus will later put it, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"
Third, his mission will bring him to Jerusalem to be crucified. Satan shows him an easier way, a way in which he could wow the crowd by provoking God’s saving power in a leap from the top of the Temple. Jesus instead chooses the way of suffering.
In doing so, he chose the way that the Israelites chose in our first reading. God always follows the same modus operandi: He allows suffering for a time in order to bring his people closer to him.
He does this in our day, too. Those who stand with Christ in the battles the Church faces in the world can take heart in today’s readings and know that "no one who believes in him will be put to shame."
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.