DEUT 26:4-10; PS 90:1-2.10-15.r. V.15; ROM 10:8-13; GOSPEL: Lk 4:1-13
Have you ever been in a desert storm where the sand hits against your legs by the wind? The sun is scorching hot and there is no water or food anywhere. The sand storm blinds you and you can’t focus where you are. It is quite a daunting experience of fear: fear of dying of thirst and hunger; fear of not being saved out of this horrible situation. Your only hope is that you could find some foliage or vegetation and see some kind of oasis to satisfy your hunger and thirst. In a certain way, you feel trapped, alone and afraid. Where is God? Why is God allowing this to happen to you?
In the first reading today, there are harsh realities of slavery, terror and oppression. Life sometimes presents terrifying situations of oppression. The oppression can so overwhelm you that you feel paralysed. However, God in the midst of the Israelites saw their oppression and difficulties and with compassion, brought them out of the land of slavery into the land of where milk and honey flowed.
What is the cause of our oppressions and how are we enslaved today? It is our slavery to sin, and giving into our weaknesses that binds us and oppresses us that we become trapped and imprisoned in our lives.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is led by the Spirit, after His baptism, into the desert for 40 days to fast and pray before He began His ministry. As a human being, Jesus experienced temptations like us. He was weak from hunger and thirst, yet He was focused on God. The devil uses our weakness to draw us away from God through temptations. The Psalm today speaks to us of “God who is our stronghold, our Refuge” in times of trial. God who is in our midst, will help us in all our distress.
The second reading speaks of the “creed of the Christian”. When we call on the name of the Lord and we believe in Him, “we will not be shamed” because God who is rich in mercy, will save us. No matter who we are, or which racial group we belong to, or whether we are rich or poor, we have all fallen from grace and need repentance. We need to be saved and set free from our personal bondage whatever it may be.
So today we call on the name of the Lord to save us from our temptations of greed, envy, lust, selfishness, arrogance, oppression of abuse of all kinds, murder, violence, hatred for one another, jealousy etc, and to fill our hearts with His love. The Lord wants to take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh.
The lure of worldly power, worshipping idols, putting God to the test, turning a stone into bread, were all temptations that Jesus went through. Yet He did not succumb to these temptations. His faith in God did not dwindle, but He clung onto God and He believed that God would save Him. It is in a desert that God put the Israelites to the test “for 40 years.” He allowed them to experience hunger and want. God gave them manna to eat and showed them that “one does not live on bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” It was in a desert that Jesus used these very words to combat the temptations from the devil. Three times Jesus was tempted, and three times, He won the victory over sin. Similarly, the Israelites were tempted in the desert for 40 years but succumbed to their weaknesses and sinned.
St John of the Cross writes that “the devil causes the greatest harm when he lures the soul with a little bait out of the simple waters of the Spirit”. It is when we allow the devil to seduce us that we fall away from Christ and get trapped and sin.
During this time of Lent, let us draw near to God during our trials and temptations and call on God’s Name. During these 40 days of Lent, we will experience the temptation to give up and of giving in to our weaknesses, our greed, our selfishness. Like Jesus, let us have the courage to chase the devil away, confident of being strengthened by His grace and mercy. Let us ask God to renew our hearts, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that when Easter arrives, we may with joy rejoice in His love and live fulfilled in His Resurrection.
REFLECTION FOR SELF GROWTH
• If the devil had three ‘shots’ at you, what three temptations would he use?
• How do these compare with Jesus’ temptations?
• What can help you resist these appeals to self-interest, power and spiritual pride?
• What encouragement do you find in the scripture texts?
Sr Columbia Fernandez O.P.