A Cycle – 1st Sunday of Lent 20
Mt. 4: 1-11
I do not know about you, but my Lenten practices have not changed over the last 20 years. We as a church are told to focus on prayer, alms giving and fasting. If you think about it, most Catholic’s do follow the laws of fasting and abstinence; we may find extra ways to give alms like donating to the rice bowl or other initiatives of our parish; and we use something like the “black book” as a means of prayer, or extra services provided and recommended by our parish. This year perhaps it is time to do something different in order to connect more deeply with the concept of following Jesus. It is after all a time to turn back to God and live more deeply our Christian life.
Perhaps this lent we should do something which goes beyond just being obedient to the law and the comfort of our religious practices which provide us with a sense of good standing with God. Perhaps this lent we should commit to do something Moses did during his time on the mountain with God and that is ask God to show us his glory and to deepen his intimacy with God. Instead of our focus being on things we can do, let us ask God to do something within our hearts by seeking to know God’s mercy, love, faithfulness, kindness, graciousness and forgiveness.
Our lent begins with the gospel of Jesus’s temptation and it is easy to miss a greater message for us beyond his temptation. There is an overall sense of total and complete confidence in God’s presence providing Jesus with the ability to overcome temptation and stay faithful to the plan of God for our salvation. We can and should grow in that same mindset when it comes to our relationship with God.
There is more to this gospel than its focus on Jesus using scriptures to overcome temptation. Jesus was driven into the desert after his baptism by John for the purpose of preparing him for his ministry. It was a time of seeking the mind of God and preparing himself to overcome his human desire to give in to the temptations to find a more comfortable way to serve God. Satan desires nothing more than to have us use God to avoid the trials of life which make us believe God does not care about what we are going through.
Jesus is teaching us by his response to temptation to rely on the promises of God even when it looks as if God is not paying any attention to us. In the midst of our trials we cry out, My God why have you abandoned me. Instead of crying out to God, we should be doing the very thing Jesus did and that is to remind ourselves of the promises of God given to us in the scriptures.
Let us use this season of lent to immerse ourselves in the promises of God. Pick one of the promises of God to reflect on and make it the focus of your daily prayer. There are over 250 promises of God in the scriptures and only you know the one which you need to have absolute confidence God will fulfill in your life and accomplish what he said. God through the prophet Isaiah told us his “…word shall not return to (him) empty, but it shall accomplish the task for which it was sent” (Is. 55:11). What is it you need to hear? In my Lenten journey I need to hear God affirming “he will not abandon nor forsake me.” You may need to hear God affirming “he will forgive your sin and remember it no more.” Or perhaps inviting you to “come to him and he will give you rest.”
Only you know what it is you need to hear. This is your lent; it is your journey into the presence of God even if it seems that God is not present. We have no indication in this gospel that Jesus was comforted by God. We do not see any indication of God interacting with Jesus during his time in the desert as God did with Moses on the mountain, or with Abraham or Daniel or even Mary. We only see the angels coming to Jesus after the temptation ended.
What we do see is Jesus being tempted to abandon the mission for a comfortable belief God will be with him. It would seem Jesus is teaching us something about faith in the promises of God. Our approach needs to like his was, a total and absolute belief in God’s promises that get us through the temptations of life and not succumbing to the desire for satisfy self. He is teaching us to seek the mind of God to discern God’s plan for our lives, to discover what God has gifted us to achieve for the kingdom of God and relying on God to help us overcome those obstacles which will come against us as we set forth to fulfill God’s plan.
Jesus told us, in that upper room the night before he died, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Yet that is exactly what we try to do in our attempt to please God. Jesus in the desert is teaching us dependence on God and dependence on the Holy Spirit is the key to our ability to use the time in the desert – or for us the time of lent – to prepare ourselves to do God’s will in all we do in the future as sons and daughters, heirs to the kingdom of God.
As we begin this lent in 2020, we should begin by following the lead of Jesus and seek the mind of God, seek the will of the Father for us and be strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit who is always with us.