The Lenten Struggle: Temptation in a Fortune Cookie
Lent is a curious time. Over the years, I have found that spiritual axiom to be true over and over each Lent: the more one applies themselves to the disciplines of the spiritual life, the more "fiery darts of the evil one" come into their path.
In a humorous way, this was shown to me today. I went to lunch with a co-worker. By the second week of the fast, I tend to have dreams of big hamburgers, big slices of cheese, loads of pizza etc....(is your mouth watering yet? See, now even the blogs are becoming a stumbling block!)
Anyway, my co-worker was loading his plate at the Chinese food buffet with the most mouthwatering meat dishes one could imagine. (I won't go into a play-by-play of it. I've tortured all of us enough as it is...) I sat there, trying not to think about how much I wanted to break the fast. I began to chuckle inside as I thought about how weak I am. It is an amazing thing to realize how little we depend on God and how much we are addicted to our own desires. Not that meat is bad. It isn't. But what is bad is the fact that I have so little will power over my own body. Simply stunning.
Then it came: the final test. The fortune cookie. One would think that after the sweet-n-sour chicken was out of reach, one would be safe.....
Like a message from Hades, my fortune cookie revealed this message:
"Tomorrow will be too late to enjoy what you can have today."
Wow. Now there is a nice summary of the world's wisdom, wouldn't you say?
The saints willingly give up their bodies to torture, starvation and death. I have a hard time giving up meat. The saints willingly give themselves to prayer and repentance. I stand in Vespers thinking about my petty concerns and struggle to be still in the presence of God.
The saints live for God and their neighbor and are victorious over their fallen passions. I think only of myself and indulge my passions at the drop of a pin.
Lent is amazing....but what a joy it is to realize one's weakness and then turn to God in prayer and thanksgiving! What a treasure the Church is in providing us weak creatures this, as Vespers proclaims, "time of purification of body and soul."