March 5, 2017
On this first Sunday of Lent we hear that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Mathew 4: 1). Those words “led by the Spirit” show us that this period of forty days was part of the plan of God: he wanted his Son, who identified with us humans in every way but sin, to know the trials of temptation. All of us, at times, are tempted to do what we know we should not do; and it is very probable that we will face temptation during the forty days of Lent. If, through the grace of God (and perhaps because of our age), temptation is less troubling to us now, we should pray for those who are surrounded by it. I’m thinking especially of our young people, those in high school and in college whom the world actively tries to lead into temptation and into sin.
For many years I worked with young people and I know that even the best of them struggle with temptation. I guess it starts with hormones, so that the demands of the body are felt more acutely. It can also be explained by self-consciousness or a lack of self-confidence: the desire to be popular, to be “one of the crowd”, often leads young people to give way to peer pressure. Then, in addition, they have to face the pressures of advertisers and popular culture. This is what I have learned over the years:
1). Young people are more liable to give way to temptation when they are bored. Encourage them to have full lives, with study, sport and other outlets for their energy and creativity. English boarding schools had compulsory sports for a reason!
2). Parents should know who their friends are - invite them to your home - and positively encourage good friendships. We cannot thrive when we are isolated but when we choose the right friends, peer-pressure will actually lead us in the right direction.
3). Be aware of the outside pressures. In the boarding school where I worked we had a filter system which prevented access to harmful sites on the internet. High school students are not so old that parents should not monitor their internet use, and it is essential that you have access to their Facebook account, if you allow it, because such social networks often lead to trouble, apart from being a huge waste of time.
4). The example of Jesus, placed before them at home, in church and in school, gives them a system of values and inspiration which leads to lasting confidence and happiness.
Of course that last advice applies to us all. Our Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving are designed to bring us closer to our Lord and give us strength against evil. Next weekend and on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights we have a special opportunity to strengthen our spiritual lives as the Franciscan friar, Father John Anglin, comes to preach our annual Parish Mission. His presentation on Monday night (13
th) will incorporate our Lenten Penance Service so that we can be blessed with the grace of God’s forgiveness before Easter.