First Sunday of Lent (A)

As you know the 40 days of Lent are a time of preparation for our role in the Kingdom. They lead to Easter. During Lent we both prepare for Easter and prepare to devote ourselves to the work of the Kingdom for the remainder of our lives. Along with preparing for Easter we should consider life adjustments to do the work of the Kingdom. For example, a prayer time we establish during Lent or a practice we chose might become a permanent part of our lives.

Jesus’ preparation, His 40 day, culminated in the temptations of the devil. He was strong enough to withstand them. Our 40 days of Lent are given to us to strengthen us to continue the battle against the tempter. We are under siege from the forces of evil that would destroy God’s Presence in us and prevent us from bringing this Presence to others.

The three temptations the Lord withstood are really temptations that confront us all: the temptation to be self centered, the temptation to ignore God, and the temptation to sacrifice our Christianity to power and authority.

Take these stones and turn them into bread, is echoed by us when we make the goal of our lives keeping our stomachs full, or, basically, being selfish. Man does not live on bread alone, Jesus counters. Our lives are certainly empty when we are self centered. We need God. We need his Word to give us purpose. What will remain of us 500 years from now? Here on earth we will all be gone and probably forgotten. But there is part of us that can remain here on earth. There is part of us that will last. That part of us is the Presence of the Lord that you and I have strived to make real in the world. There is nothing self-centered in living for the Lord.

Leap from the top of the Temple and force God to save you, the devil tempts Jesus. It is the temptation that somehow we have a power over God, just as the devil tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God and become equal to Him. I don’t think any of us believes that we can be more powerful than God, or that we can force God into action on our behalf. But I do think that we are tempted to follow the relativism of the world and see ourselves as the center of the universe. When we say that our choices in life depend on our own desires, not on what is objectively right or wrong, or, more, when we say that we determine morality ourselves, we act as though we are little gods. His holiness Pope Benedict has written about the scourge of relativism, as modern man sacrifices principals to his own selfish desires. Who are we to tell God what is right and wrong? Who are we to tell God that He needs to accept our choices even if they are against objective morality? We do not have the right to tempt our God[1].

The final temptation brought before Jesus was the temptation to sacrifice our faith for the sake of power. This might not seem to apply to us, until we consider the question of the Lord to his disciples, What profit is it for a man to gain the whole world but sacrifice his very self?[2] People in the business world are tempted to make compromises in their Christianity to advance their careers. Even in the homes, people will push Christian charity aside in order to assert their position. I used to say the Pilgrims Prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.” I have refined it into, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me an arrogant sinner.”

We spend the 40 days of Lent doing battle against these all the temptations we have to push God outside of our lives.

The weapons we use in our war for the Lord are the three main practices of Lent, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We look for ways to strengthen our union with God, to pray more. Perhaps that means setting a new time aside every day for prayer. Families should certainly do this in the evening. We all need to make time to pray more. By fasting we don’t just mean giving something up, we mean getting a control over ourselves. That might demand that we avoid those people, places and activities that bring out the worst in us. By almsgiving, we mean charity to the poor in body mind and spirit. When we reach out to the Presence of the Lord in others, we reach away from our selfishness.

Jesus’ name means, “Our God Saves.” Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to effect a change in the world. He did battle with the devil and the world to save us. We spend the 40 days of Lent to join Him in saving others, for the One whose life dwells within each of us has intimately involved us in the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God ■

[1] Cf Benedict XVI, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.
[2] Mark 8: 35. 
Ilustration:  Brothers Limbourg, Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, c. 1416, Illumination on vellum, Musée Condé, Chantilly

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