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Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent - Forty Days in the Wilderness

First Sunday of Lent
Our Lenten Journey
Forty Days in the Wilderness
February 21, 2010
February 17, 2013
February 14, 2013 

Just as Noah spent forty days in the ark, the Israelite's wandered forty years in the desert, Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, a baby spends forty weeks in a mother's womb, and Our Lord spent forty days in the desert, we are brought back to our own spiritual desert each lent for our journey. 

What does it mean for us to embark on our Lenten journey every year?  Pope Benedict XVI answered this question in his Angelus Message the First Sunday of Lent 2010.  His message was entitled, “On the New Adam’s Obedience, The World Improves Beginning with Ourselves.”  Here are the words of Pope Benedict XVI on today’s Gospel Luke 4:1-13 (Mark 1:12-15, Matthew 4:1-11):   

"The Gospel of this First Sunday of Lent illustrates it [our Lenten Journey], with the account of Jesus' temptation in the desert.  The evangelist St. Luke tells us that Jesus, after having received baptism from John, "full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil"  (Luke 4:1-2).

It is evident that there is an insistence on the fact that the temptations were no accident but the consequence of Jesus' choice to carry out the mission entrusted to him by the Father, to embrace completely his reality as beloved Son, who hands himself over entirely to the Father.  Christ came into the world to free us from sin and the dangerous fascination of planning our lives without God.  He did it not with high-sounding proclamations, but by personally struggling against the Tempter, right to the cross.  This is an example for all:  The world improves beginning with ourselves, changing what is not right in our lives with the grace of God.

Of the three temptation that Satan proposes to Jesus, the first has to do with hunger, that is, material need:  "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."  But Jesus answers with sacred Scripture:  "One does not live on bread alone."  (Luke 4:3-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).

Then the devil shows all the kingdoms of the earth to Jesus and says:  All this will be yours, if you will fall down and worship me.  It is the deception
of power, and Jesus unmasks this temptation and rejects it:  "You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve"  (Luke 4:5-8; Deuteronomy 6:13).  Power is not to be worshiped but God alone, truth and love.  

Finally, the Tempter proposes that Jesus perform a spectacular miracle:  He should throw himself from the high walls of the Temple and make the angels save him so that everyone would believe in him.  But Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test (cf. Deuteronomy 6:16).  We must never try an experiment in which God is supposed to respond and show  himself to be God:  we must believe in him!  We must not make God "material" for our "experiment"!  Referring again to sacred Scripture, Jesus opposes to human criterion the only authentic criterion; obedience, conformity with God's will, which is the foundation of our being.  This too is basic teaching for us:  If we carry the World of God in our heart and in our mind, if it enters into our lives, if we have confidence in God, we can reject any sort of deception of the Tempter.  Moreover, from the whole story there clearly emerges the image of Christ as the new Adam, Son of God, humble and obedient to the Father, unlike Adam and Eve, who in the Garden of Eden gave in to the seductions of the spirit of evil to become immortal without God.

Lent is a long "retreat," during which we return to ourselves and listen to God's voice to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and find the truth of our being.  It is a time, we could say, of spiritual "contest" to live together with Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the weapons of faith, that is, prayer, listening to God's Word and penance.  In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism.  May the Virgin Mary help us so that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we live this time of grace with joy and fruit."  (Pope Benedict XVI Angelus Message, First Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2010)

Our Lenten journey is a reminder that we are sinners, in need of repentance. Try as might we cannot rid ourselves of temptation or sin on our own, but only by the grace of God. The Church encourages us to seek spiritual renewal during the forty days of Lent. It is a time to trust in God, and pray for the grace to change what is not right in our lives, what is keeping us from God, so that when we exit the desert in forty days, we might just be able to improve the world a little bit - beginning with ourselves. 

For items related to the Catholic Church
please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures
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