1st Sunday of Lent – 14 February 2016

"Going out to meet Jesus"

Scripture Reading – Luke 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’

Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you,
and again:
They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“Going out to meet Jesus”

by Bro. Dave O’Hara SDB

Greetings and I hope you are well. This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Lent, a dramatic change in the Church year, It is a time of recollecting, reevaluating and drawing closer to Christ in expectation of the celebration of Easter. Lent is a time when we see the shoots of spring in the world around us, when we can experience new life, new hope and new beginnings.

This Sundays Gospel tells of the story of Jesus being led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and being tempted by the devil. The story follows Jesus’ Baptism, where Jesus is declared by God to be his Beloved Son. Indeed the Devil uses these words in a taunting manner to try to tempt Jesus. The Devil tempts Jesus three times. Firstly with comfort, to provide for himself by turning stones into bread. The Devil then  tempts Jesus with success, with power, with glory and fame if he submits to him. Finally the devil tempts Jesus to prove who he is, God’s anointed Son, by throwing himself down from the temple in a death defying act.

Jesus was tempted for the very same reason as he was baptised, because he was a human being. Although sinless, Jesus went off into the desert to be tested by the Devil, just as we are throughout our lives. He wanted to experience what we experience and show us that through faith and the Holy Spirit we can overcome the temptations we face in our daily lives.

The Church gives us this temptation story at the beginning of every Lent to help us understand and challenge us to do what Jesus did, to face up to the evil that tempts us in our lives.Pope Francis’ in his Lenten message calls us to grow closer to Christ through God’s word and through going out of our way to meet Christ in those in need.I find it quite tempting to daydream when studying the word. I also find it all too easy to turn a blind eye news reports of people’s suffering, to look at statistics on homelessness for example, as numbers and not consider the people they represent. It’s a lot easier to concentrate on myself and what I want! But our faith must find expression in everyday actions to help our neighbour. We must resist the temptation of building our own individual kingdoms and remember there is one kingdom and we are all responsible for it. In the face of so much hardship and suffering it’s easy to experience a dullness of conscience, but if we study God’s word intently and enthusiastically, it will reawaken our conscience and prompt us to touch the flesh of Christ in our suffering neighbours.

As Thomas Merton said, “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little”, so let the Holy Spirit guide you into the wilderness this Lent. Trust that the Spirit will give you the strength and courage to fight temptation. Instead of giving up sweets or chocolate this Lent, I’m going to take a step into the wilderness, to see what in my life is drawing me closer to God and to cut away what is not. Through his word, and through the holy spirit, I’m going to try to become more aware of God’s mercy in my life and to share that mercy with those who are in need. It’s a little daunting to go out and meet the crucified Christ in the suffering because it exposes us to our own weakness and vulnerability. However the gift of this is greater communion with the Lord, something we must constantly strive for. I wish you the best of luck over this Lenten season and I assure you of my prayers.

INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA

If it were not well known, the story of the temptations of Jesus would surprise us and shock us. Certainly it is surprising that Jesus, should be led by the Spirit into the desert, there to be tempted for forty days. We are surprised to see Jesus subject to temptation like the rest of us. The fact that Jesus  has to undergo testing makes him appear human, like ourselves, but is there not something disturbing about the fact that Jesus feels tempted by evil?  We can identify with this Jesus who suffered temptation and experienced the same doubts, the same rebellion, the same wish to be free from God that we experience, and that we, unfortunately sometimes give way to. His being tempted makes him seem closer to us, but does it not also make him seem less divine?

LECTIO DIVINA

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

The gospel tradition (Mk 1,12-13; Mt 4:1-11; Jn 6,14-15; 7,1-9; 12,27-28), and also Hebrews 2, 14-18 and 4.15, reveal the disconcerting fact that Jesus was tempted. Luke places his account of the three temptations in a strategic location (Lk 4,1-13), immediately after he affirms the full humanity of Jesus by publishing his genealogy (Lk 3:23-38), and immediately before he recounts the beginning of his public ministry at Nazareth (Lk 4,14-30). He was proclaimed by God as his beloved Son (Lk 3, 22). He is also son of his people and of the human race (Lk 3, 23-37). Before being rejected by his own townspeople (Lk 4, 24-30), he has to choose to be as God wants him to be, his beloved Son. Being the Son of God is for Jesus a grace he must defend. The triple temptation he must undergo is an experience that he confronts guided by the Spirit. It begins when he is feeling weak, after a long fast, but the temptation comes, not from human weakness, but from the enemy of God.

Luke has changed the order found in Matthew. He makes the temptation in the temple of Jerusalem the highest point of the devil’s attack, which begins and ends with a challenge to Jesus as the Son of God (Lk 4, 3.9) as he was assured by God at his baptism (Lk 3,22). In the temptations, Jesus experienced a struggle between two wills, two powers, that of the Father who willed him as his Son, and that of the devil who disputed the will of God. The place of battle was the personal consciousness of Jesus, but the real combatants were God and his opponent.

The account of the three attacks, in a single temptation, is schematic: the first and the last (Lk 4,3.9) concern the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, ahead of his more urgent needs for food and attention. In the second temptation, the devil changes tactics. He begins by promising Jesus that, if he adores him, he will be all-powerful. It is significant that this promise is not backed up by the word of God, like the other two. And it is even more significant that Jesus resists the three attacks and overcomes them by relying, without comment, on the word of the Father. The sons and daughters of God will be saved when they allow the word of the Father to be their defence. To hold to what God has said is to remain in the Father’s love.

Meditate: apply what the text says to life

Led by the Spirit, Jesus is tempted in the desert. The story seems straightforward and simple, but it is full of meaning and rich in symbolism. Jesus repeats the experience of Israel in the desert and he emerges victorious over evil, until another “opportune time”. Being in possession of the Spirit of God, and his mastery of the Word, lead him to a triple victory:  victory over his own bodily needs, victory over the thirst for power, and the victory of his own awareness that he was the Son of God. In all three cases, Jesus lets God be God and this is what determines his victory over the tempter. He is hungry, but puts the will of God before food. He is tempted to choose power, but chooses instead to obey God. He knows that he is the Son of God and will not put it to the test. He, the Son, experienced temptation and proved that he was indeed the Son of God. It will be difficult for anyone who refuses to face temptation or fears that he will give way to it, to aspire to be considered a son. Anyone who possesses the Spirit of Jesus and obeys God’s Word, will be victorious in the time of trial, because he knows he can rely on God, even when his fidelity is tested by temptation.

It may seem hard to explain, but knowing that Jesus was tempted should be good news for us today.  There is something good and a reason for hope in all of this. It is not for nothing that we have just proclaimed as word of God the story of the temptations that Jesus had to undergo in the desert. The first thing we should learn from this Gospel reading is that there is nothing deplorable, nothing unworthy, in being subjected to temptation. If the Son of God was tempted, we should not feel embarrassed or humiliated at having to admit that we also face temptation. Anyone who has not known doubt, can never know certainty. If we have never felt the temptation to free ourselves from God, we will never know the joy of remaining in his presence. Anyone who has not known the possibility of abandoning God, will never know the reasons why he should remain with him. Anyone who has not felt the desire to plan his own life independently of God, will never accept fully God’s plan. Anyone who has never wanted to live by his own light and with his own strength, will not know what it means to live in God’s light and with his strength.

The believer who is tempted is not weaker or less faithful than others, but has more opportunity to show his fidelity. Only the one who is tempted, is able to prove his fidelity. Fidelity that has not been tested is fidelity that is still to be tested. We need to call to mind more often that temptation, our daily temptations, are not an obstacle to our meeting God, but rather an opportunity to choose to stay with God. Only those who are living with God are tempted to leave him. It is encouraging, and it is good news, to know that it is the children of God, and not strangers or enemies of God, who are tempted. Hatred is not a temptation for the enemy but only for a friend or family member. Being tempted to renounce the Father is proof that we are his children – Jesus, the Son of God, experienced this temptation. Knowing this should help us to use our temptations and trials, the small daily temptations and also the bigger less frequent ones, to prove our fidelity to God and allow him to make us his children.

The first temptation undergone by Jesus related to his need for food. After fasting for forty days, he felt hungry and was tempted to use his divine power to satisfy his hunger. It would have been enough to tell the stones to become bread. But he chose to put up with his hunger and refused to satisfy it miraculously. He knew that he owed his life to God, his Father, and that the Father would take care of it. He preferred to trust God than to trust in his own powers. His need for God was greater than his need for food.

The son knows that what matters is not to live life anxiously seeking to satisfy his own desires and needs, however important they may be, but to live life meeting the desires and needs of his Father. A son is defined, not by what he needs, but by how much his father needs him. If the son wastes time and energy looking for food to satisfy his hunger, there is no need for a father who lives in order to give life to his sons and sustain them. We should not be surprised that Jesus was hungry, nor that he felt the need to look for food, but we should envy his capacity to delay gratification in order to allow God, his Father, the joy of satisfying his hunger.  If we want to have God as our Father, we will need to learn from Jesus, the Son of God, to put ourselves into God’s hands and wait for him to satisfy our needs. For the children of God, nothing, no matter how urgent or irresistible it may be, can come before the will of the Father.

The second temptation experienced by Jesus is even more relevant and more dangerous.  He was offered power over all the world, if he denied his God and Father. Jesus refused absolutely: only God is deserving of exclusive service. Filial obedience is due only to the Father. Nothing is to be preferred to God, not even power so great that it would make him like God. Being able to rely on God as Father is to enjoy the power of God.

Anyone who overcomes, as Jesus did, the temptation to exercise power over others, does not render himself weak. Instead, he allows God to be his God more readily, and he becomes more securely his son. Knowing that we are servants of God frees us from serving other gods. We know ourselves: nobody is free more than the one who has only one Master to serve. Having God as our God makes us sons of one Father. How much more freedom we would enjoy, if we lived to serve God alone! Instead of living peacefully with God as our Father and only Master, we destroy ourselves by worrying about how important we are, or what we are able to do, constantly comparing ourselves with others. By not choosing to serve God alone, we lose the chance of having his almighty power at our disposal. By choosing other fathers, we deny God the possibility of being our only Father.

The third temptation overcome by Jesus was the most subtle and the most serious. He knew with certainty that he was the Son of God, and he felt that he could rely with certainty on his Father’s protection. What use is a Father that cannot save his Son? A God who did not help his own children would be of little benefit. The trust that Jesus had in his Father could lead him to temerity. It would be wrong for the Son to risk his life, just because he knew that God would protect him. It is wrong to put the Father to the test, just to prove that one is a son.

Jesus, the Son of God, did not put his Father to the test, precisely because he knew that he was the Son of God.  Anyone who expects too much from God, who asks for more than God wants to give at any particular moment, or gives up on God because he does not give him what he wants, is putting God to the test. He does not accept God’s decisions or respect his will. God is not at the service of whoever needs him or only when he is needed. The Father of Jesus wants to be our Master always, in time of need and in time of plenty, in sorrow and in joy, in small things and in big things.

Jesus, the Son of God, reminds us today that there is no shame in suffering temptation. There is no son who has not felt, at some time or other, the desire to leave his father.  This is comforting, but it is also demanding.  Only those who choose to remain always at home with their father, doing his will, whatever it may cost, are truly sons of God. If temptation is the way to remain more consciously with God our Father, then we should welcome it.

PRAYER

Through our annual Lenten observance, Lord,
deepen our understanding of the mystery of Christ
and make it a reality in the conduct of our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

AUDIO

“Going out to meet Jesus”
by Bro. Dave O’Hara SDB

SR_2016.02.14_1Lent_DaveOHaraSDB.m4a     
Music: “Skye Cuillin” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

IMAGE

Going out to meet Jesus

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