February 21: First Sunday of Lent Year C
Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13
This Sunday we officially begin the Lenten Season. Lent is an opportunity to offer the forty days to God in thanksgiving for his mercy and salvation in his Son Jesus Christ. It is also a time during which we try to imitate Jesus allowing ourselves to be led into the desert of hardships for forty days so that God may remind us that we are not God! That is why the Gospel reading focuses on Jesus being tempted in the desert. Today I would like to reflect on how we could live the Lenten Season more fruitfully. On Ash Wednesday we reflected briefly on the three pillars of the Lenten practice, namely prayer, alms-giving and fasting. Regarding prayer, one may give more time to God by prayer and attending church on more of a regular basis apart from the Sunday Mass. The Stations of the Cross can be an important part of the celebration of Lent and indeed may draw us closer to God during this time and mend our spiritual lives. Spiritual reading on religious topics such as prayer and lives of the saints can be a good way to celebrate Lent. Reading the Bible occupies a special place because that is God’s Word that nourishes us and touches us deeply during this holy season. The point of the three temptations by the devil in the Gospel, is to help us realize how the devil cleverly manipulates our human desires and shows us how easy it can be to satisfy them. Like Jesus, we must resist for "One does not live on bread alone". In this spirit, we accept fasting. We normally think of giving up food and drink or eating less. That is fine, but rather than giving up only our favorite food for Lent, we could consider also “fasting” from our negative behaviors and attitudes towards other people and certain things during Lent. This may include giving up a certain habits like self-seeking, the desire to control, swearing, viewing pornography on the Internet or pornographic movies and refraining from watching our favorite television shows. We are called to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. We could also consider fasting from using modern technology: computers, Internet, cell phones and texting.
The three temptations help us to see how Jesus resists all the three possibilities by submitting to the will of the Father rather than to his own selfish desires. Thus he resists to let his hunger dominate him to the extend of using his divine power to change a stone into bread; nor does Jesus give in to the possibility of a short-cut to glory and fame. It would have been quite easy to jump from the parapet of the Temple. This would have been the best publicity that he was indeed the Son of God, but Jesus resisted. He was able to resist because he lived totally by the Spirit of the Father, and thus was able to control his human selfish desires rather than being controlled by them. Lent is like a time of inner surgery, a time when we are led to discover our human disires that tend to control us so that like Jesus we may learn how to control them and so amend our lives in readiness for Easter. So what is the message? 1) Lent is a season when we try to respond to message of mercy and compassion; 2) Lent is therefore a time of response to God’s call for radical change of heart and transformation in our lives; 3) Lent is a decisive turn around during which we enter into a right relationship with God through a more intensive life of prayer, fasting and sharing our time, gifts and talents for 40 days.
©2010 John S. Mbinda