First Sunday in Lent
"At that time, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil" (Mt. 4:1-11)
This weekend’s Gospel reading is familiar about Jesus going into the desert to face the devil's temptations. Notice how the tempter doesn’t approach with his three-fold spiel until after Jesus is hungry. It makes me think about the fact that when we are feeling okay, even strong, the devil knows that making any move is ineffective. But we become easy prey when weak, hungry, and needy. Interestingly, these vulnerable moments can tell us much about what we depend upon and where we first go to find security and solace. This Lent, let’s look at the responses of Jesus to discern if our loyalties are with God or with something else.
“One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Reflect on what you are living on. What are those addictions to which you succumb? What are the crutches that you feel you ‘need’ to get through the day?
Sometimes when faced with a difficult situation, anxiety trigger, or uncomfortable reality, it becomes easier to avoid the difficulty and fill it with something more convenient and easily accessible. That way, we don’t have to do the work.
What would it be like if you took God with you to face your pangs of hunger? To inspect everything from that routine morning cup of coffee and bagel, to that midday smoke break, to that after-work happy hour drink, to that late-night sweet snack. Is it for your health and well-being or to deal with a deeper hunger for truth, compassion, companionship, peace, hope, stress relief, and meaning?
“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Reflect on times when you’ve acted out of superiority. Those times you’ve been condescending or dismissive to others, even when you felt they deserved it. Those moments when acts of arrogance or self-importance gained you respect. Those times when your sense of entitlement got you what you wanted.
These moments of selfish ambition test God’s sacrificial love and works of mercy, which has often lifted us up. As we hear from the ministry of Jesus, these blessings ready us to heed God’s commission call to share these blessings generously with others to lift them up.
What would it be like to ask God to direct and accompany us so that we can better shine the light of our blessedness to others and not keep all of the advantages for ourselves?
“The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Reflect on what we are truly serving. What do we think about, talk about, and hope for? Are we truly serving the Lord when the majority of our words or actions speak of our desire for success, revenge, pleasure, acceptance, vindication, intimacy, or power? What we dwell upon is where our heart is and where our heart shows us what we serve.
What would it be like to cast it all to the Lord and look to him as the Priority in our lives and the Prioritizer of our lives?
“Cast your care upon the LORD, who will give you support. He will never allow the righteous to stumble” (Ps. 55:23).
“Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Author: Fr. Steven Bell, Paulist Father