First Sunday of Lent

How does today's celebration of the First Sunday of Lent relate to the creation of man versus Jesus spending forty days in the desert? In Christ, both events have to do with temptation! Lent is a season of penance that has been set apart by the Catholic Church in memory of the forty days' fast of Our Lord Jesus in the desert and as a mean of sanctification for her members. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent includes forty fasting days. The Lenten Season is a time to fast for the purpose of gaining spiritual strength in order to resist all forms of temptations[1].

Lent is a good time to ask oneself a number of questions: Where is life really leading me? Is the hope of eternal life my aspiration? Have I tried to grow in the life of the Spirit through prayer, reading the Word of God and meditating on it, receiving the Sacraments, self-denial? Have I been anxious to control my vices, my bad inclinations and passions, e.g., envy, love of food and drink? Have I been proud and boastful, thinking myself better in the sight of God and despising others as less important than myself?.

During today's Gospel Reading we heard that Jesus fasted for forty days and He was put to the test by Satan. This reading from the Scriptures provides us with clues as to how we can overcome sin. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was awfully hungry. The forty days and nights may be symbolic of the 40 years in the desert when Israel endured a time of temptations and failure. Now, Jesus, the new Israel, is likewise being tempted in the desert.

Having entered into the Lenten Season, this is a time for us to review our beliefs and expectations. Do we demand that God provide for our basic needs while ignoring our spiritual needs? Do we impose demands upon God when we pray, ignoring the impact of such demands on our salvation, the impact upon those around us, and even the impact of such demands upon the Divine Will of God? There has to be a balance between asking the Lord for a blessing if it is according to His Divine Will and saying, "Give me, give me, give me!" And, do we have false hopes of a secular messianism, awaiting for what will never come to pass? Are we wasting valuable time that could be applied towards our spiritual growth, our sanctification in Christ?

This week, may we reflect on these things and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the truth so we may become as precious pearls to the Lord.

[1] Sunday 10th February, 2008, 1st Sunday of Lent. Readings: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned-Ps 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17. Romans 5:12-19. Matthew 4:1-11. [St Scholastica].

Ilustration: Dix chose to represent the third temptation of Jesus dealing with power and riches. The "kingdoms of the world and their splendors" are symbolized with imposing structures and made attractive by bathing them in brilliant light. However, the splendors of the world are dwarfed by the two silhouettes of Satan and Christ. The towering figure of Satan is enveloping the sitting Christ in a sinister scheme of deception. Leaning heavily on the still young Messiah, he presents his deal: "I will give you all these" for an act of idolatry. However, the initial sentiment of awe and fear is slowly retreating as the true nature of Satan comes to light. Not to be taken lightly, he is after all for the sitting Christ nothing more than an unpleasant incubus or a lifeless chimera. The gesture of Christ's right hand says it all. The rejection of the devil's offer is a matter of calm and humble determination -an act of divine will in human guise. This is the meaning of Christ's gesture. His countenance in Dix's portraits of Christ, however, is never that of a radiant young God. Dix saw in Jesus Christ the anguished, miserable and ugly representative of an evil humanity. He covered with irony all those who wanted him to be a "Ballet Dancer" pirouetting on the cross of human frailty. In most of Dix's evocations of the Passion, Christ is abandoned by God and human beings, the epitome of utter loneliness and anguish.
Otto Dix, Temptation of Jesus (1960), Litograph.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris