Chad Pirotte, Grounded Catholic and Council Member of FIRE
Gen 3:6 6 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
1John 2:15-17 15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of 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 boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
As we begin Lent, there are three universal temptations that the evil one almost always uses to entice us away from the Father. We see them in the Garden of Eden, where scripture says Eve was tempted because she saw that the food tasted good, it was attractive, and it would elevate her status in the world. In the letter of John, he calls these three temptations “lust of the flesh”, “lust of the eyes”, and the “boastful pride of life.”
Throughout the history of the Church, the antidotes to these temptations are fasting (to combat the lust of the flesh), almsgiving (to combat the greed of our eyes), and prayer (to combat our pride for glory). This reflection will focus on the “lust of the flesh.”
The lust of the flesh is rooted in those bodily desires and cravings that control and enslave us. In short, this is "sex" and "food." Both sex and food are good in and of themselves. Food sustains our life, and sex sustains our species. But when good things become obsessive for men, those pursuits become “other gods,” and this is NOT GOOD and leads to potential evil outcomes. So, take a minute for a little examination of conscience at the beginning of Lent and consider two questions. Examination of conscience allows us to reflect where we are on our path; but the Good News tells us it's never too late to recalculate the route we are taking in this life.
Take a moment or two to seriously consider two questions:
Do I struggle with lust?
Do I struggle with gluttony?
No really, ponder these questions and take some time to think about it.
Here are some other questions to help calibrate our direction.
In regards to my battle with lust, do I look at pornography? If so, how often and to what degree? Do I masturbate? How often?
With what intensity do I regularly fight these urges?
Do I always immediately give in, do I always give in, do I sometimes say no? Are there situations and patterns that lead to defeat and other situations that lead to victory? Even if I do not give into the temptations of pornography and masturbation (which is a tremendous grace you should be thankful for), there is one final question. In general, do I long for sexual gratification on a regular basis to such a degree that I feel enslaved by my desires?
Again, this is a time recalculate. Make a plan, find friends, go to confession.
In regards to Gluttony, here are some practical tips to help you. First, go look in a mirror. Are you overweight? Then the answer is yes, you struggle with Gluttony.
Even if you are not overweight, food is powerful. Do I ever say no to my impulse to eat or drink? If I do, how often? What is the length I will go to to say no to food and drink? Do I indulge in sugary sweets, extra helpings, alcohol simply because my taste buds cannot seem to get enough (This is enslavement).
Every time that we give in to our cravings, we are training ourselves to be enslaved to our body rather than to be in control.
Listen to St. Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 9 when it comes to training for the Spiritual battle.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Gluttony is a brutal beast. It is the silent killer in America, literally killing people by the millions when you look at all the complicating factors attached to obesity. But it is also killing our souls. Its a deadly sin…quite literally. Why isn’t the church speaking up about this more? Why aren’t we fasting more? Why are training our souls to constantly give into our bodies. This is exactly what Satan wants.
In this battle, the church has offered one very potent antidote to both lust and gluttony. FASTING. When we intentionally skip meals and snacks, we become aware of the power that sex and food have over us. Often a person who fasts begins to think about nothing except for food and how much he or she desires to eat. Just as we fast from food, St. Paul even recommends fasting from sex for a time, so that as a couple you can devote yourselves to prayer (1st Cor. 7:5).
One more word about the Catholic tradition of “fasting.” In the 1960s, the Bishops in America softened difficult traditions and customs regarding fasting throughout the year. Don’t mistake the bishops’ liberalizing actions as an erasure of the spiritual command to fast. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says "when you fast," not "if." He assumed that this was a regular part of devotion to God. In fact, almost all Christians in the early church fasted all year round - not just during Lent - on Fridays, and also on Wednesdays, too. Why? Early Christians took self control seriously, and saw fasting as the major antidote to “lust of the flesh.” I believe strongly that if you’re not fasting regularly throughout the year and throughout your life, then you have not taken the sin of lust and gluttony seriously enough.
Here is the good news, the best time to recalibrate the direction of your life is now, during lent. Make a simple plan and stick to it.
Finally, let us not forget that Lent prepares us for the cross. Christ has died because we are sinners. He knows our struggles and His love is patient and forgiving. Nevertheless, He has given us the power to overcome our worldly desires. Let us strive for the victorious life!