Dear Brothers and Sisters
As Lent approaches it is good to remember the Scriptural foundation for the three Lenten disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. In the gospel for today Jesus speaks specifically about these disciplines which were, in his time, already a spiritual tradition of the Jews. Not only are prayer, fasting and almsgiving based in Scripture, but they connect neatly as the antidote to the three poisonous forms of deadly sin: the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes and the Pride of Life. These three categories are laid out in I John 2:16.
The Lust of the Flesh is countered by Fasting. When we fast, we discipline our bodies, and self-control is at the heart of overcoming all forms of the Lust of the Flesh. The Lust of the Flesh also takes the form of three of the traditional seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Lust and Sloth. Gluttony is immoderate intake of food and drink. Lust is inordinate or unnatural sexual activity and Sloth is not just laziness but also the kind of despair and hopelessness that is a denial of God’s love and providence.
The Lust of the Eyes is a name for two more of the seven “deadlies”:the sins of Envy and Greed – the inordinate love of created things – our possessions and money. Created things, possessions, and money are not bad in themselves. It is the love of money which the Bible says is the root of all evil. In other words, making our material possessions our idol. Almsgiving is the Lenten discipline that helps knock the Lust of the Eyes on the head.
The Pride of Life gives a name to the last two deadly sins: Pride and Wrath. Pride sets ourselves up as a mini-Almighty and Wrath, along with the violence that follows (when we don’t get our own way) are the sins that typify the Pride of Life. Prayer counters these sins because at the heart of prayer are the words, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner” and “Thy Will be Done.”
As Lent begins—take these disciplines seriously so we can all participate fully in the abundant joy of Easter.