Readings for the First Sunday of Lent: February 14, 2016
Deuteronomy 26: 4 – 10
Romans 10: 8 – 13
Luke: 4: 1 – 13
Welcome to Lent!
The entire Lenten/Easter Season manifests the magnificence of Baptism. This is why Lent calls us to conversion through prayer, fasting, and charitable works. These Lenten exercises dip us into the depths of Living Water, ie Jesus the Christ. Easter invites us to RISE UP with Jesus from the waters of the River Jorden, and ultimately, we can look forward with faith and hope to share in Christ’s victory over death.
It is quite appropriate that today’s Gospel is preceded by the story of Jesus’ baptism. This event is a powerful portrayal of Jesus being fully aware of his unique relationship with God. He and all who were present at the Jorden heard God the Father affirming Jesus as His “ beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.” What an endorsement !
Today’s Gospel relates that Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert. There, Jesus spends his time to fast, pray, and to discern his mission as the “beloved of the Father.” Towards the end of his 40 days in the desert, Jesus became aware of the “evil one” lurking in the physical hardships of the barren wasteland. Despite the hardships of this place, Jesus experienced the fragile beauty of the desert as well. His “desert time” gave Jesus clarity; he was well aware of WHO he was, and to WHAT he was being called to do, and to be. Immersed in the reality of his Father’s love, Jesus RISES and confronts each temptation presented by the “evil one”. Each temptation offered Jesus a choice, and each choice claimed a victory for life, truth, and, love.
As baptized Christians, we are called on that same desert sojourn with Jesus. Our time in the desert is not necessarily 40 days, our desert time is a lifelong faith journey! We too, encounter challenges and temptations that are a part of everyday life. With the lifelong grace of baptism, we can depend on God, our Father to support us. We can count on Jesus to save our fragile humanity from being lured and deceived by the power of our own darkness.
Let’s look at Jesus and his struggle with the force of evil, and let’s draw from the example of Jesus who saw through the deceptions of Satan.
Jesus was certainly hungry after 40 days of fasting. And yet, he refused to change the desert stones into bread. So often, we choose to satisfy our hunger by giving in to our disordered affections, our compulsive addictions, and our need to have what we want right NOW. Saying yes to the “quick fix”, and feeding our short term appetites jeopardizes our receiving the long term blessings that our faith life can offer us. We cannot live the fullness of life on bread alone, but all our hungers can be filled by the living Word of God.
Jesus was offered all the worldly kingdoms, with worldly power and glory. Unlike Jesus, we can so easily delude ourselves into believing that we are entitled to the power and riches of this world. Jesus knew these things are not for us to claim. Jesus knew WHO he was, and to which kingdom he belonged. Jesus welcomes us into that same kingdom, and invites us to celebrate with our lives the riches of the Father. As baptized children of God, and as full partners with God in the work of the Kingdom, we have no need to claim what already belongs to us. We are simply called to be grateful by giving worship to the Lord our God, and serving Him alone.
The “ evil one” pressed his luck a bit too far, when he asked Jesus to test the Lord. For Jesus this would be an unthinkable, unspeakable , faithless act. Not so for us! How many times do we feel that God doesn’t see or hear us, or that God just sits in heaven with no thought or concern for us, or our struggles? We can quite readily join with the unbelievers, and cry out: “Come on Jesus, give us a sign, show us a miracle, save us if you can.” Thank God that God knows, God understands, and that God is full of mercy and forgiveness. How fortunate we are that God’s unconditional love for us embraces our broken, weak humanity. Those times in our life that we are tempted to test the Lord, are usually times when we are pressed too far, pressed and oppressed with challenges that seem beyond our human endurance. Testing the Lord sounds like a good option when we are overcome with pain, fear, doubt. God is well aware of that. He does not want to remove our fear and doubt, rather he wants to affirm our faith. There is no need to test our faithful God, who promised to be with us always. We can count on the Spirit of Jesus to lead us back and dip us once more into the Living Waters of Baptism. There we will be washed into the goodness and generosity offered to us by the community of believers- the Church. They, too, through their baptism are beloved children of God; they are our brothers and sisters. They like Jesus are ready to show us the “face of God”, and they in the name of Jesus will offer us their hand, and we, with them, will RISE UP together, and walk our desert sojourn, living and celebrating the Paschal Mystery.
by Sr. Gerrie Contento, M.P.F.