Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 1st of March 2020
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First Sunday of Lent
Lent invites us to the desert, not for its own sake, but to spend time with Jesus’ and to pass this time keeping him company in his exile. The number forty also draws our mind to the forty years spent by the Chosen People wandering in the wilderness. Strong comparisons are to be found between the trials that they faced and the three temptations of Jesus. With our Lenten journey already begun, we celebrate today the First Sunday of Lent. Combined with the first day of a new month there is an invitation to renew our commitment to Christ once again and take up the adventure that Lent is, a snapshot of the adventure of being a follower of Christ. We should be very clear about what our resolutions are and today could be an opportunity to do this. Writing them down in a safe place assists us in being clear to ourselves what we are undertaking, does not allow for negotiations or “wiggle room” in our mind and makes of them an offering to God.
The Gospel today from St Matthew presents us the figure of Jesus fasting in the desert and struggling with “the tempter”. Our Lenten fasts and spiritual undertakes should help us see clearly those things that tempt us to depart from the way of living that we have been called to.
The period of prayer, fasting, and wrestling with the devil occurs just before Jesus sets out on his public ministry. It might seem a strange way to prepare for public life by isolating oneself but Jesus presents us with an example that in silence we can hear the voice of God and by letting go of world comfort we know that it is only upon him can we depend. The closer we are to God the closer we are to other people.
“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” What are the good things that surround us and sustain our journey towards God? It could be friends, or family or support structures of one kind or another. But what are we feeding ourselves with that satisfies our lower nature and become a distraction from God?
The second temptation is about putting God to the test. Jesus on the height of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem is tempted to throw himself down and have himself saved by God through the angels. It would be asking God for something sensational. It is a temptation to put our own conditions on how God should operate. There is another aspect. We can be inspired by stories of miraculous events in the lives of the saints or of people who we meet who have great moments in which the power of God’s work is very evident. We marvel and awe at these events and want them for ourselves or even expect them to be constantly present. Jesus’ response should invite us to have faith that God’s protection or the comfort of his holy angels is always with us, not just when we on the edge. God is always beside us and constantly supporting us with his guiding hand. We should place all our trust in him because we know that by ourselves we can achieve very little, but we are strengthened if we live by God’s grace in every moment.
On a high mountain, Jesus is tempted for the third time. The devil proposes to Jesus an easy route to power. But this is not God’s way. Jesus makes it clear that it is not worldly power that saves the world but true worship and homage. High up on another mountain Jesus makes the ultimate act of homage to the Eternal Father. Even then he hears a similar proposition, with a very similar text.
Let us ask Our Lady to intercede for us and entrust ourselves to her under the titles of “Comforter of the Afflicted” and Refuge of Sinners. Amen
-Fr Liam Boyle