First Sunday in Lent (6 March 2022)

On the first day of Lent last year, I was having a cup of coffee in a nearby cafeteria. I was there some time, when a young waitress came up to me and said, “I feel I should say something to you. You have a big black patch of dust or dirt on your forehead. If you like I’ll bring you a damp tissue to get it off.” I did my best to explain to her why I had the black mark on my forehead, that it was Ash Wednesday, that we get the ashes on our foreheads to remind us to return to the Gospel and to follow Jesus’ way. With that, in came two other people with the black ashes on their foreheads. The waitress said to me, “Look you have two more like minded people coming your way.”

The Gospel for the 1st Sunday in Lent is from Luke 4:1-13. In this Gospel we are told that Jesus, filled with the Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The time Jesus spent in the wilderness may be seen as a period of preparation for his mission as creator of a new people, of a new humanity. Jesus was very hungry. He encountered the devil who invites him to satiate his hunger by changing a stone into bread. Jesus reached down to what was deepest in himself and through the perceptiveness afforded him by the Spirit, he is aware that he lives off the will of the Father. He rejects satan’s suggestion. Jesus remains true to his identity as the Son and Servant.
In the second temptation the devil tempts Jesus by placing before him the option of obtaining political power. This temptation appears outrageous, perhaps it is understood if we consider the political and social circumstances of the period – the negative impact of Roman rule, the nationalistic aspirations of the Zealots and the expectation of the people. The possibility of becoming a powerful political leader in these circumstances is offered to Jesus by the devil. In his reply Jesus asserts that he will worship the Lord God and serve him alone. Jesus has again turned to what was deepest in himself, to the strength of the Spirit affirming the fact that he is Son and Servant of God.

Luke sees Jerusalem as the centre of the story of salvation. It is the place of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. In the third temptation the devil takes Jesus to the parapet of the temple in Jerusalem. He invites Jesus to throw himself down and assures him that God’s angels will uphold him. This would have been an awesome event which would attract the admiration of the crowds. Jesus again delves deep into the power of the Spirit within himself, becomes aware of being Son and Servant of God and rejects the devil’s offer. In affirming his identity as Son and Servant of God, Jesus is expressing his attitude of love towards the Father and his complete trust in him.

I have asked the question, “What have these temptations got in common?“ It would seem that Jesus was being urged to think solely of himself and the possibility of having power in various situations. At another level we can observe that a prominent constant in this passage is the abiding presence of the Spirit. The Spirit ensures that Jesus continues to be aware of his identity as Son and Servant of God. In the scripture that follows Luke 4:18… the creative Spirit takes him out of himself completely and directs him to the poor and deprived. In this way Jesus is bringing about the new humanity.

We pray that as we journey through Lent, we may enter into our own wilderness and into the great wilderness of our time – war, conflicts, injustice, famine. Let us trust that through the abiding Spirit we may be urged to be proactive in the ongoing creation of the new humanity envisaged by Jesus.

Kathleen Egan, OP

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