You know year after year we hear of the famous three things that we are suppose to do during Lent and that is Pray, Fast, and Give Alms. Now while we are suppose to be doing these things during the rest of the year. During the season of Lent we are to do them with more intensity.
Here is a little background to why we pray, fast, and give alms during lent. This all goes back to the garden of Eden and the fall of our first parents. I recently found out that Eve was tempted with three temptations. Look at
Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,
Now the ancient Rabbi's called this the three Lusts.
The Lust of the Flesh
The Lust of the Eyes and the
Pride of Life.
St John in his first letter reflects this teaching when he says:
1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or the things in the world.
If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh
and the lust of the eyes
and the pride of life,
is not of the Father but is of the world.
Here is the meaning behind the three Lusts:
Well the lust of the flesh would be for any disordered physical pleasure. In our Culture we are bombarded with magazines and shows that offer us physical pleasure. Or Drugs, or gorging ourselves with Food.
The lust of the eyes would be any disordered desire for material things. Some examples would be maybe a shopping spree, or the collection of great possessions.
The pride of life would a disordered desire for Power or social standing.
There are some other Characters in the Bible that displayed these disorders. I would have to say that King Solomon, It would appear systematically fell into these three great sins.
This is located in 1 Kings chapters 10 and 11.
First is the lust of the eyes - when King Solomon taxes the people 666 talents of Gold, and creates all of these lavish vessels for himself.
Then is the Pride of life, when he makes a standing army.
And the lust of the flesh is when he gets the 700 wives and 300 concubines.
Now what is also significant is with each of these sins. God had told Moses earlier that these three things are exactly what a king is NOT suppose to do.
Jesus himself gets tempted with three temptations.
We find this in Matthew Chapter 4.
The devil tempts Jesus first with changing stones into bread.
This is the Lust of the flesh. Now while it might seem not so tempting, except it would have been an entirely selfish gift to himself.
Next is when the devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple and says to cast himself down and the angels will catch him. This would have been very, very visible sign to everyone that Jesus was the Christ and a great display of power. This is pride of life. Look at me - I am the Christ, I can to tricks!!
Finally the devil offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world, without the cross. If only Jesus would worship him. This is the lust of the eyes.
But Jesus conquers all of these and he tells us how in Matthew chapter 6.
He gives us three solutions to these three lusts. Pray, Fast and give alms.
Praying is when we say that God is in charge and not me. Prayer is acknowledging that God knows what is best for us because he loves us and designed us. Praying is when we say not look at me, but look at God.
Fasting is when we tell our bodies that we are in control of them and not the other way around. Before the fall of Adam and Eve, their desires were ruled by their intellect. Now our intellect is ruled by our desires. By fasting we tell our bodies that we do not live on bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.
By giving alms to the poor or those in need, we are conquering the lust of the eyes. Our eyes tell us that we need this and this and that and some or all of those. This is of course a lie. We are designed not to be filled with the good gifts of this earth, but with God himself. St. Augustine said that "our hearts are restless, until they rest in God." Also, you can' take all of this stuff with you when you go anyway, so you might as well give it to gave treasure in heaven.
You know what is also significant about these three things is when Jesus says them in Matthew Chapter 6 he says - WHEN you pray, WHEN you fast, WHEN you give alms. He is assuming that we are doing them.
Getting back to Jesus in the desert. Jesus was in the desert 40 days and nights. He was in the desert conquering where the Israel had failed during their 40 years. But many people don't know is that we are the New Israel in the desert, and we join Jesus these 40 days to get our minds, hearts, and actions refocused on where we are headed.
We, the Church are the New Israel that have passed through the waters of baptism (like they had in the red Sea).
We can be fed on the new manna of the Eucharist that comes to us daily. And we are here waiting to enter the promised land of heaven. So this 40 days is suppose to be a summery of our entire journey toward heaven the rest of the year. It is during this time that we are to get refocused on our journey to our heavenly home, which is best done by prayer fasting and giving alms.
Now prayer, fasting, and giving alms are related to something else.
We have heard how when people join a religious community, they take vows of obedience, celibacy, and poverty. Well these are just the greatest forms of prayer, fasting, and giving alms.
When we pray we are telling God we are not in charge, and being obedient to someone is giving them charge over you.
For those who are celibate, it is giving up intimate physical relations, which is a pretty big fast, and giving them to God.
Finally, it is in poverty that we own nothing and give away all things as alms.
Source: For the most part Dr. Brant Pitre - http://www.catholic-productions.com/store/audio/pitre/temptations.html
Any and all of his talks should be purchased!