Gospel Reflection – Lent prepares us for Easter
Lent prepares us for Easter
When I take a passage of scripture for reflection, I begin with my pencil to underline words that strike me. For the First Sunday of Lent, we have Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13). First, I underlined Holy Spirit. Luke is the evangelist of the Holy Spirit so it comes as no surprise to read that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and was led by the Holy Spirit. Then I underlined the words devil, tempted, wilderness. Next, I underlined forty days. Actually, there are forty-six days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, but do not count the six Sundays of Lent and we arrive at forty. Why omit the Sundays? I suspect the reason is that every Sunday, being the Lord’s Day, is a little Easter.
A time of preparation
In the bible, forty is a number associated with a time of preparation. The exodus from slavery to the promised land lasted forty years. Elias was fed by an angel and walked for forty days to meet with God on the holy mountain. Jesus fasted for forty days in preparation for his ministry. The apostles were prepared for forty days between the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord. We have this season of forty days in preparation for the greatest celebration of the liturgical year, the Resurrection of the Lord when we renew our baptismal life by declaring our rejection of Satan and our commitment to Christ.
Father of lies and a murderer from the beginning
In John’s Gospel the devil is called a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies. The Greek word for the devil is dia-bolos which is the opposite of the word for symbol. A symbol unites thoughts whereas the diabolos causes confusion and divisions. “The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2851.)
A blatant lie is usually spotted, yet with the power of modern media, people are brainwashed by untrue slogans taking over the mind. An example was the slogan which linked compassion with abortion. We are living in a post-truth society.
The most successful lie is the half-truth. Adam and Eve were misled by the promise of the knowledge of good and evil, meaning the right to disregard God and make my own rules. It was symbolized in the forbidden fruit which looked very attractive but poisoned within. Like a fish taking the tantalizing bait, they swallowed the camouflaged hook. Yes, their eyes were opened. Previously they saw only goodness but now they also saw evil.
There are many forms of bread
The temptations of Jesus show the devil with all his wiles, quoting scripture to camouflage his efforts to confuse the mind of Jesus and thus lead him astray from his mission. Jesus had announced that his mission was to set up the kingdom or reign of God. This would involve repentance of sins and belief in the Good News of Jesus’ teaching.
The first temptation was about bread. Perhaps Satan had the ability to see into the future when Jesus would multiply bread and fish to feed a multitude. Would Jesus be diverted from his mission about the reign of God by spending his time supplying food to people? What a noble ideal according to the scriptures! Yes, but it was the typical half-truth. Jesus would pass on the mission of feeding the hungry to his followers when he said, “Give them something to eat, yourselves”. Yes, bread for the starving is very important, but it is not the only form of bread. Scripture also says that people do not live on bread alone. The mission of Jesus would also provide bread for the searching mind, bread of hope, bread of faith and the bread of eternal life. He would not be misled by the half-truth.
Lust for power
The second temptation attempts to mislead Jesus through the lust for power. The devil, in a moment, showed him all the kingdoms of the world. “I will give you all the power and glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.” Satan’s claim to own these kingdoms is a typical lie. What are we seeing in Ukraine these weeks? A litany of lies and the lust for power. On a lesser scale, this lust for power causes many people in politics or business to cast conscience out the window. To follow this lust for power is to worship Satan. The abode of the devil is a wilderness. The response of Jesus is to worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.
Putting God to the test is lack of trust
The third temptation is to put God to the test. Once again, the tempter quotes scripture out of context. Throw yourself off the parapet of the Temple and the angels will hold you up on their hands lest you hurt your foot against a stone. Religion is not about doing stunts. “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” Putting God to the test is a lack of trust. Faith is an absolute trust in God through light or darkness, led by a cloud by day and a flame by night.
Invitation to renew baptismal commitment
Satan, the deceiver, was defeated by Jesus, but he has not gone away. Temptations are part of life. For the forty days of Lent, we are led by the Spirit to link up with Jesus on the Mount of Temptation. The ashes of Wednesday are a reminder that life here on Earth is not forever. Unto dust our bodies shall return. We recall the bigger picture of life, the eternal vista looking forward to sharing in the Resurrection of the Lord. Lent is the forty-day season of preparation for the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter. We will be invited to reject Satan with all his wiles and empty promises. Then we will profess our faith in God the Father, Creator of life: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour: and in the Holy Spirit who is the inspiration of the Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
Our Father in heaven, through the observance of Lent, may the Holy Spirit deliver us from the Evil One and help us to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Br Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.