First Sunday of Lent
Gospel: Matthew 4: 1-11
The Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent is always the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
Jesus had embarked on a kind of retreat - a time apart from the world in which to discern what God wanted Him to do - what God wanted Him to be. He uses one of the classic spiritual disciplines of fasting to help to focus His prayer - taking it to such lengths that, after 40 days, He would have been physically very weak and, it would seem, very susceptible to temptation.
The paradox is that, though He is indeed very hungry physically, His retreat with God has left Him spiritually very strong.
Jesus had to work through what being the Son of God meant - someone who could turn stone into bread? Someone who could take risks knowing that God would not let anything hurt Him? Someone who should rule the world?
With each temptation, Jesus gets stronger until in the end He dismisses Satan from Him - Jesus is the one in command of the situation - Jesus is in command of Himself.
Jesus could have kept this incident private - no-one was with Him - and yet He chose to tell the disciples about it. Why should He want them to know that their Master - their Teacher - had had to struggle with temptation? Surely He would want them to think that He was above temptation?
Jesus wanted them - and us - to know that even He had to face the temptations of an easy life - of power - of being so special that God won’t let anything bad happen to Him. If it happened to Him, then it was sure to happen to them.
Each Lent, we enter a spiritual wilderness. It is meant to be a challenging time - a time to develop a spiritual maturity. We live in an age when the importance of having our needs met is recognised - but as Christians, we sometimes have to remember that, ultimately, our needs can only be fulfilled by God.
In Lent, we try, like Jesus, to set our “wants” to one side - and also try to set our needs in their proper context. We may fast - or deny ourselves - or perceive that we are to give time and attention to something we often neglect (like prayer!). Whatever it is, there is a long way ahead - and we will be tempted to give up - what is the point of it when the rest of the world is full of ways of making life comfortable?
But we are not “denying ourselves” to make ourselves miserable but to challenge ourselves: just what does my being a son or daughter of God mean? Just where do my priorities lie? What do I actually need - and how many of my “needs” turn out to be wants? Sometimes the only way to find out is to try to live without them for a while!
What does it mean for me?
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