C Cycle – Ash Wednesday 22
Worldwide the church is preparing for the celebration of Easter. We have two thousand years of faith development which has guided and affirmed our beliefs which we profess boldly and each time we say the creed. But how many of us take the time to reflect on what we profess and believe so that we can boldly proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord. Lent in the church began as a season preparing those who are coming into the church, but it changed because we do take our faith for granted. We all need to take the time to step back and examine our lives, our failings to act on our belief and how well have we embraced the mission to spread the good news.
I will admit, the scene of Jesus being tempted in the desert was not one I thought about very much. After all he was the Son of God, so the outcome is predictable so why did it occur? Did Jesus need to be prepared for his ministry of calling the people to repent and respond to the call of God? Did Jesus know or was he fully prepared and aware of his divinity or did he set that divinity aside by emptying himself as Paul wrote (Phl.2:6-7). Did Jesus by setting aside his humanity show us the real way to repent and show us the path to righteousness by his temptation? Well, let us leave those questions for the theologians and let the Spirit talk to our hearts.
For the truth is there is a real lesson for us in Jesus being driven into a place where he could be tempted and by how he overcame the temptations. Today we begin our Lenten journey by having ashes placed on our foreheads. While that is being done, we will be told we are going to die, or we will be told to turn from sin and live the gospel. I much prefer the second choice, by being reminded we have a choice to sin or not to sin. To turn toward Christ or to turn away from Christ. What we choose to do will lead toward life or toward daily dying a spiritual death separated from God.
Christ shows us how to depend on what we know of God’s plan and promises for the ability to resist all temptations. By our dependence on the gifts of God: Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit we are more than overcomers. I am convinced that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the critical to our ability to live the life of a disciple. It is the Spirit whom Jesus said will teach us the “truth about sin, condemnation, and justice” (Jn.16:8). But more than teaching us how sin places a barrier between ourselves and God, the Spirit also gives us the wisdom to overcome sin. It teaches us the truth about sins destructive power and at the same time teaches us how our faith is a shield protecting us from the evil one (Eph.6:16).
But how does faith grow? Again, we turn to the scriptures for our source of knowledge, and it tells us “Faith come by hearing and what is heard is the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
The Holy Spirit opens our minds and hearts to grasp the wisdom given to us in the scriptures. That same Spirit that ministered to Christ in the desert is our teacher and our source of holiness. Jesus died for the penalty of our sin and the Spirit takes us from that place of forgiveness and teaches us how to grow in holiness. Lent is a time for us to fast, pray and to seek to be in the presence of God. Let us begin this lent by seeking first the freedom offered us by the death of Christ and then seeking the Spirit to grow in holiness. It is not what we give up it is what are we giving ourselves to this lent. Are we striving to please God by our ability to discipline ourselves or are we seeking to be pleasing to God by allowing ourselves to be changed by the work of the Spirit within us by immersing ourselves in the scriptures? Try John 13 through 17 and pray for the Spirit to speak to your heart on how to respond to the words of Christ.