Our first reading today,
Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
reminds us what it means to really love God. Persevering in temptation. Being disciplined. God loved us so much that he gave us a choice. We can drink to the point of collapse, eat and eat, buy all that stuff that’s been advertised, chase the opposite sex, whether in the solitude of our mind or actively, spend, spend spend. But we know that’s all bad for us, in some way, shape or form. Today, being Mardi Gras, especially in New Orleans, but spreading all over the country (they have a party in San Jose, California, for which the local police put as many as 250 extra cops on patrol because of all the violence, drunkenness and fighting), people are going to be out there partying to excess, but the curtain comes down at midnight. Lent begins. We are tempted to undiscipline, but Lent reminds us that love of God means disciplining ourselves. Adequate consumption, not over-consumption. This is what the act of sacrificing something for Lent is all about. A little self-discipline, a little self-denial, some extra prayer, fasting, giving up meat on Fridays (and Ash Wednesday, BTW) to remind us of the sacrifice our Lord made for us.
I tried to find a stark, non-cleansed picture of what Jesus looked like (more than likely) after he was scourged. The one with the blood and flesh painted in might be too gory for some sensitive eyes. But remember that Jesus sweated blood on Gethsemane, a condition that leaves your skin ultra-sensitive, then was lead to the authorities where he was beaten by at least two centurions with scourges 120 lashes in total.
So, during Lent, reflect on the sacrifice our Lord made for us, and really try to reign yourself in. A little self-denial, a little discipline.