The First Sunday of Lent
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 | Rom 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19 | Mt 4:1-11
Jesus preceded his ministry with retreat. Christ fortified himself with 40 days and nights of prayer and fasting. He completed his retreat with a trial — three tests of his resolve.
There is always value in centering yourself before you undertake your vocation; to discern your calling and reconnect with what you hold dear. In the case of Jesus’s 40 days, it was not a moment for pampering. On the contrary, his time was coupled with fasting, a most basic level of self-abnegation. Nonetheless the physical burden was of great spiritual value. Time for reflection, coupled with discipline to do so, heightens our spiritual faculties and allows us to deal with the temptations ahead.
At the end of the 40 days, Jesus is tempted with the prospect of food, if only he were to conjure it. The appeal is apparent to any human who has ever fasted. So, too, is the appeal of amassing earthly power in the third temptation.
Then, Satan tempts Jesus with the idea of throwing himself from the highest tower. To us that hardly seems all that tempting. The temptation is clear to Jesus, though, who retorts that “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Matthew 4:7). The response reveals the temptation. Why test God if there is not a shadow of a doubt? What better way to eliminate that doubt by compelling his intercession? Or, if there is no intercession on behalf of God, perhaps your death is no loss to you.
Surveying the pain and misery of the world, drastic economic inequality, ecological crisis, war and violence, etc., we are presented with the same temptations of Christ: convenience to the detriment of discipline, earthly ambition to the detriment of spiritual peace, and self-destruction — in Jesus’s case, a test of God’s existence. In ours, we face doubt and even despair of the existence an all-powerful, all-good God presiding over a suffering world.
“Challenged with many complex issues today, we all struggle to believe in God’s faithfulness through our unknown and unpredictable history,” says Maryknoll Sister Teruko Ito, who has served in Tanzania, Japan, Guatemala and the United States.
“Today, let us individually and communally review our past, where we came from, and profess who our God is, in and beyond human history,” Sister Ito continues. “And maybe we can shift our understanding of the word ‘God’ from noun to verb, which might expand our understanding of God. God is a process. God is holy-ing and is wholeness-ing. Oh God, you are the wholeness of life!”
Questions for Lenten Reflection
What gives you hope when the state of the world gives you cause for concern?
What choices do you make daily that have an impact on the Earth? On lower-income communities?
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
– A prayer for our earth, Laudato Si’
This Lent, consider eating less meat and fewer dairy products. Meat and dairy products are a major driver of climate change due to carbon and methane emissions through their production and distribution chains, according to data from United Nations agencies.
Join the “Encounter for Our Common Home” Campaign organized by the Catholic Climate Covenant. Get training and join efforts to urge government and Church leaders to support climate solutions from a place of faith and reason. https://mogc.info/EncounterCommonHome
This reflection was published in the 2023 Lenten Reflection Guide: Inspired by Laudato Si’ by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
Featured image: A scene from Sandwich Harbour, Namibia, is used to illustrate a reflection for the First Sunday of Lent by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in its 2023 Lenten Reflection series. (Ryan Cheng, Unsplash)