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Irish Dominican Church, Tralee, Co Kerry

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St Catherine of Siena

Reflections for the First Sunday of Lent (10th March 2019)

1st Sunday of Lent
Will You choose 'Fight' or 'Flight', this Lent?

It has long been noted that we humans always respond to problems in life in two basic ways. These two ways are 'Fight' vs. 'Flight'. That is- we can choose to respond to a problem we have by engaging directly with that problem - 'Fight', or flee from it- 'Flight'. Both are appropriate responses, in different situations. If you see a hungry lion a hundred meters away for example- you would do well to choose 'flight' and quietly get away, rather than try to fight it.

On the other hand, if someone at work has spread false and damaging lies about you personally, then choosing 'Fight' by confronting the problem either directly with them, or through getting help from someone else, would be better than ignoring it, better than choosing 'Flight' and pretending there was no problem.

So with these two basic responses to a problem 'Fight' or 'Flight' - the question I ask you is - "what is Jesus doing when he walks off into the desert?" Is he fleeing the world? Is he walking away from it all? What about all the monks and nuns who enter a monastery - a 'spiritual desert', as it were? Are they fleeing and running away from the problems of life? And what about our Catholic Faith in God? Are we simply running away from the harsh realities of life? Is Karl Marx right in saying religion is merely 'a heart in a heartless world', choosing flight from reality rather than facing it?

In entering the desert, Jesus chooses to Fight. As does the Christian - be it a monk in a desert, or a social worker at their job. He is not running away, not choosing 'flight'. Christianity is not escapism. Our lives as Christians are marked by facing that which is most real to us - our own existence in the world. We all have our faults and failings, our weaknesses and flaws. In the season of Lent in particular, we face them. How? With Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. With Faith, With Hope, and with Love.

The Lord enters the desert to show us the way to do this - how to face those struggles which are most real to us. His three temptations represent three main temptations we can face. The first - to turn the stone into bread - is his temptation to think that we could be happy with our material needs alone being met. To think that if only you have enough stuff, that you will then be happy. If only you could have that house or that car, you'd be sorted. Jesus resists this way of thinking, because there is more to life, more to one's happiness, than having material things. This temptation represents all the stuff you think you need to be happy.

In Lent, we fast as a response to this. We practice self denial. We give things up, to teach us detachment. To teach us that, actually, I can go without and still be as happy as I was before. Fasting teaches us freedom - because it teaches us that those things we depend on in our daily life clutter things up, and tie us down. You can be happy with less. I have a relative who is an interior decorator and an architect. She likes to say as far as her approach to decor is concerned - 'Less is more'. She hates clutter. That is our approach in Lent. We practice 'Fasting' to detach ourselves from our over reliance on things. To get rid of all that clutter of attachments to things that pile up in our hearts. To learn that yes, 'Less is more'.

Besides attachments formed to material things, we also form attachments to sin - to anger, pride, lust, selfishness, etc. These things too, clutter our heart.

This is a season of facing yourself. What are the temptations that you face? What are your anxieties and fears? How is your prayer life? What are the things that you are too attached to? That hold you back? In entering Lent, we are not fleeing from our problems, but fighting them. The Christian faces his or her fears. We face those things which hold us back. We look at the problems of our world, of ourselves, and of our temptations to moral evil, and we choose to enter the Arena of battle. We choose Fight, over Flight. And in the Holy Cross of Our Lord, we find our future and our salvation.

Written by Fr Daragh