February 14, 2016 — First Sunday of Lent
Most of us are familiar with the fact that there are Four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We might be less acquainted with the detail that the first three are called the Synoptic Gospels — that is, they tend to include the same stories in a similar sequence. Thus, all three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) report that Jesus spent f40 days in the desert, fasting and praying, and resisting temptation. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke presents St. Luke’s perspective of what occurred.
That Gospel Reading is perfect for us on this First Sunday of Lent as we, too, symbolically enter “the desert” during these 40 days of Lent. In fact, all of our readings this weekend emphasize the fact that we need to place our trust in God just as Jesus did.
The First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy has Moses speaking to the Israelites about the whole issue of trust. Moses explains that He (and thus we) needs to acknowledge that everything comes from God. Furthermore, we need to place our total trust in God, and as a result of that trust, we need to pursue stewardship and to share our “first fruits” with the Lord. We may tend to say that we trust God, but do our lives and actions reflect that trust? The Second Reading and the Gospel affirm the importance of that trust.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, our Second Reading, emphasizes the nature of this trust. Paul says basically that believing is not enough; we must go deeper. Faith is not just believing; it means we trust the Lord completely; we place all of our hopes on Him. We need to strive during this Lenten period to have total confidence in Jesus, to place our salvation in His hands. “For one believes with the heart,” says Paul. Mere intellectual agreement with the facts of the Cross and the Resurrection is not enough. We must believe in our hearts, and we must trust in the Lord.
It is in the Gospel from St. Luke that we find the ultimate trust in God. The devil presents temptations to Jesus; we, too, face temptations on a daily basis and this period of Lent is the time to truly deal with them. The devil presents three temptations to Jesus; the devil tempts Jesus to use His power to appease His hunger; he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship him, the devil. And he tempts Jesus to test God’s promise of protection. Jesus resists all because He trusts in His Father.
In this Gospel Jesus fasts and He is hungry, but he is filled with the Spirit and that strengthens Him to resist and to trust completely. We sometimes have the opposite experience — our stomachs may be full but we have empty spirits. One of the major purposes of our Lenten journeys is to empty ourselves and allow our hearts and souls to be filled with the Spirit.
Jesus experienced real temptations. He resisted them because He placed His total trust in God. We are called to the same kind of trust all the time, but especially during this Lenten season. With God’s help we can develop that deeper relationship with the Lord we all need.