First Sunday of Lent - Prayer gives strength in time of sacrifice
Giving up sweets for Lent was easy 50 years ago!
Usually of a boiled variety – clove drops, bulls eyes – or toffee bon bons, blackjacks, fruit pastilles.
And the chocolate bars too – Fruit and Nut, Tiffin, Turkish Delight, Fry’s Chocolate Cream.
But sweets back then were only an occasional treat.
It’s easy to give up what is few and far between.
And still, as children, the prospect of a month without sweets was terrible.
Their leaving us looked like annihilation!
No more sweets until Easter!
Except of course on St. Patrick’s Day.
God bless Saint Patrick – the saint of our Isle.
Other countries would have to do the whole of Lent.
Lent was the great season of testing.
Could we stay off sweets for the whole duration?
We would need God’s strength for this!
And so, there was something else that, for young children, was rare and far between. We discovered that Mass happened on weekdays as well as Sundays.
These Masses were much earlier than on a Sunday, much, much earlier,
and much, much quicker.
If you arrived late for one of these Masses it could be practically over!
But there was a strength to be found in that prayer,
and in the gathering of all the other people,
who we guessed must also be battling against temptation.
And how we looked forward to receiving those big chocolate Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, not delivered by an Easter Bunny, who unlike Santy does not have the same discerning qualities as to who is good or bad,
but these Easter eggs were the gifts of our own parents, who were proud of the sacrifices we had made and kept.
Today giving up sweets seems to be too great a task for most children.
It’s too difficult.
Every shop is decorated with strings of coloured sweets.
We steer the children towards the fruit and vegetable section only to be caught off guard at the end of the next aisle by offers of “seasonal” goods – Oranges alright – Terry’s Chocolate Oranges – 3 for the price of 2!
The best we might expect today is that our children might give up Mars bars for Lent, Curly Wurlys or perhaps even their least favourite treat?
I wonder do our children look forward to Easter with the same passion as we did?
Do we really appreciate that which we enjoy every day?
How do we learn to give thanks for what we take for granted?
Often, it is only when it is taken from us that we truly value what is ours.
The storms of January and February took away our television reception when our aerial blew down.
The storms took away - not only our coastline!
They took away our light and our heat.
They took away our water supply.
Four days bereft of creature comforts!!!
Thank heavens for the fallen trees that blocked our roads and kept us, the great unshaved and unwashed from revealing our vulnerability to the team in the next parish.
But surly we could be saved by the technology of our age?
They took away our broadband. Humph!
The storms took so much away from us that we take for granted
– but the tempest could neither remove nor shake our God
the God who gave us the strength we needed through prayer,
and who revealed himself through the kindness of the neighbour we had neglected for so long.
Thanks be to God for rescuing us from the notion that we are the masters of our own destiny,
and that we need no help from anyone.
Thanks be to God too, for the ways in which we were able to play our part in making our community real.
Our Lenten journey, with its prayer and sacrifice, calls us to focus on what is truly important and what is of real value.
Jesus went to the desert and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.
It was not easy, but boy… after spending all that time in prayer with his Father,
he was not going to give into temptation!
He was he focused on what needed to be done.
What do we need to rid ourselves of this Lent, to make us value life and love?
What do we need to rid ourselves of that will help us to be thankful for the many blessings that are ours?
What can we sacrifice for those who, through no fault of their own, lack life’s basic necessities – even water and food?
Lead us on our Lenten journey of prayer to your Father,
that we will receive the strength that we need to see and do what needs to be done,
and in communion with all our brothers and sisters in every nation
truly prepare to celebrate Easter with childlike joy.