Themes: Temptation, Sin, The Fall, Prayer, Testing, Self-sacrifice, Perfection
The Gospel readings (from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as John does not have an account of Jesus’s forty days in the desert) for the first Sunday of Lent presents Jesus’s dramatic confrontation with the devil. The three temptations that Jesus underwent in the wilderness represented three key temptations the Israelites had failed to overcome while they waited in the desert for forty years. The forty days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert represent those long years; likewise, the forty days of Lent are based upon the fast of our Lord, drawing us into the mystery of that sojourn: “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC 540).
Led by the Spirit and guided by the Church, we enter into a desert of sorts, renouncing various comforts and making more time for prayer and self-sacrifice. We contemplate the truth about sin and salvation; we test our hearts and ask: how do I use my freedom? Do I trust in God? How can I grow in obedience and love?
Also note that Jesus, after completing his time in the desert, embarks upon his public ministry. Having spent time in solitude and prayer, he turns towards a life among the multitudes preaching and teaching. What is his core message? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Lent, then, impresses upon us that the time is now, the kingdom is here, repentance is needed, and belief is imperative.
Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know, to love what I ought to love, to praise what delights thee most, to value what is precious in thy sight, to hate what is offensive to thee. Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes, nor to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men; but to discern with a true judgement between things visible and spiritual, and above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.
– Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)
This blog is extracted from Praying the Our Father in Lent. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he taught them the Our Father. These meditations illuminate the words of the Lord’s Prayer as an essential part of the spiritual journey from Lent to Easter.
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