First Sunday of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart”
Romans 10:8 & Dt. 30:14
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” After his 40 days of fasting in the desert, Jesus is confronted by a set of increasingly complex temptations. He is tempted to fill his need for food through his own powers. Then he is tempted to be given power and control of the world, by rejecting God. Finally, he is tempted to be recognized as the Son of God by throwing himself of a wall. Jesus resists all of these in a classic style. Boy, does He know how to handle the devil?!
This story seems to be out of my own experience with temptations. I have never been tempted to turn stone in the bread, no matter how hungry I have been. I have never been offered power and control of the world, or even to get the self-affirmation that might come from jumping off a high place into the hands of angels. My temptations, which I have not always resisted, seem so mundane in comparison.
In this time of Lent and in this Year of Faith, we all may be invited to take some time to reflect on our own lives in greater depth. Maybe we are not tempted in the dramatic ways that this story reports, but it seems to me we are all tempted in similar ways. We all are tempted to try to fill our basic needs through our own effort, and to think we don’t need the help of others or God. We all are lured by positions or actions which we think will give us power and fame in the eyes of other and ourselves, which we think will give us power, control and esteem. It seems that we all have been tantalized by similar temptations as Jesus.
In my own experiences, I have been drawn into these temptations when I forget who I am or try to go it alone. Jesus reminds each of us that God is willing and able to give us what we really need, that if we forget our dependence on Him we will soon find we are left with our own limitations. We will soon discover that the power and control we think we need is greatly lacking. Then, we are in greater need of some verification of our own worth, by others and ourselves.
Our world, especially in the form of advertising, tries to tell us that they can give us all we need, but most people discover their claims are hollow. What we need to remember is the message Jesus preaches and lives, that we are all children of a loving God. He has given each of us much, but we all are limited in our own ability to be happy without Him. The key is to remember that we are in need of God in all things in our lives. This is something that we know but forget. As Saint Paul says, it is near us, in our mouths and hearts.
As we continue to celebrate this Lent, let us all take some time to remember that which is in us already. Let us reconnect to God and God’s word in each of us, in order to know again that we can count on God for all we need. We are limited only by our lack of freedom and knowledge that we are dependent on God. That is one of the means of the readings today. That is one of the primary messages of St. Ignatius. That is one the lessons we may take from the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Let pray and continue to search for some degree of spiritual freedom to know we are cared for by God in all our lives.
Fr. Don Highberger, S.J. is Special Assistant to the Vice President for Mission and Ministry.