Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent (C) – March 10, 2019
As we enter into the season of Lent, Luke’s Gospel takes us with Jesus into the desert. John has just baptized him in the Jordan, and as yet he has called no disciples, worked no miracles, and told no parables. For Jesus, these are days of prayer and discernment, preparation and training, days of spiritual exercise for him to strip away all that is inessential and quiet the voices that long for him to surrender to relevance, popularity, and power. Luke tells us that Jesus fasted for forty days, and in quite the understatement, he was hungry when they were over. Jesus was hungry—surely hungry for food, but his fasting was not only a physical discipline. This Lent, perhaps we fast from dining at tables of exclusion in order to develop a hunger for true hospitality and welcome. Perhaps we fast from meals catered by complaining and criticizing to develop a hunger for gratitude. Perhaps we fast from an overwhelming menu of social media options to develop a hunger for more authentic human relationship. Perhaps we fast from buffets of gossip and sarcasm to develop a hunger for honesty in communication. Perhaps we fast from filling our trays with selfish ambition to develop a hunger for cooperation and collaboration. By Jesus’ example we fast, increasing a hunger for justice, mercy, unity, and peace, and so too by his example, we move from the desert to act in the world.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whom-ever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.
Lord, who throughout these forty days for us did fast and pray,
teach us to overcome our sins, and close by you to stay.
As you with Satan did contend, and did the vict’ry win,
O give us strength in you to fight, in you to conquer sin.
As you did hunger and did thirst, so teach us, gracious Lord,
to die to self, and only live by your most holy Word.
Abide with us, that when this life of suffering is past,
an Easter of unending joy we may attain at last!