Thoughts for the First Sunday of Lent
by Fr Charles FSDM VG
Lent is here. The season of preparation and penitence marking the forty days and forty nights Our Lord spent in the wilderness in preparation for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the last days of His earthly life.
In today’s Gospel, both in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, we hear the story told by St Luke of the temptation in the wilderness. Three times the devil challenges Him, but three times Jesus puts him down.
“Man does not live on bread alone”;
“You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone”;
“You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Bread may sustain us in the body, but our souls need more than that – they need faith. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God.” The bread of Heaven, which is Christ Himself, the Sacrifice of Calvary, present on our Altars every day in the form of the Eucharist. Without the bread of Heaven, we truly are in a wilderness. A life without God is a wilderness, where the temptations of modern life may too quickly catch us up.
So Lent is a time to take a step back; a time of reflection and renewal; a time for self-assessment; a time to take a look at ourselves and see if we are living in a wilderness.
We are commended to “give something up for Lent”. Many of us do, be that something like alcohol, meat, smoking, or whatever. But that on its own – just giving something up for the sake of it, is not what it is all about. One needs to be able to do something as well so that our self-mortification brings us closer to God.
Of course, in centuries gone by, things got taken to the extreme, certainly in mediæval times it was common for penitents during Lent to flagellate themselves or carry out other equally extreme forms of penance. One certainly wouldn‘t advocate that as a Lenten observance in the twenty-first century!
The whole idea of Lent is to bring us closer to God. So why not resolve to give Him a bit more time each day, either in prayer, making the effort to attend Mass during the week, by going to Confession – or by quietly doing His work in perhaps visiting somebody who is sick or elderly.
I say quietly doing His work. Jesus was most dismissive about those who made a great show of their religious fervour and zeal, he confirmed that there really is no need at all to make a great song and dance about how holy one wants people to think one is – the only person who really sees is His Father. All He requires is that you act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.
So whatever we have decided to give up for Lent, let us pray that we have the resolve to stick to our Lenten observances, that the Lord will help us through these to come closer to Him, and if we are tempted to “fall off the wagon”, we remember to ask Him “to lead us not into temptation, but to deliver is from evil”.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.