Thursday, 18 February 2010

1st Sunday of Lent - Year C

Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

The purpose of Lent is to remind us that we are not God and, having renewed us in this awareness, to lead us once again to place all our hope in the One who is. This is what God did to his Chosen People when he led them out of the slavery of Egypt into the wilderness of Sinai. He brought them into the desert where he could speak to their hearts.

In doing this God showed himself to be a good psychologist. As a school teacher I soon learned that if you want to get something through to a naughty child you have to take him away from his classmates and speak to him alone; you have to get his attention.

And so God led his People away from noisy Egypt, with its abundance of food and drink and work, right into the wilderness; a scary place of little food, scant water and savage beasts. Here he would show himself to them and teach them to trust him; no easy task.

When the Egyptians pursued them the People lost faith but God destroyed their enemies. When the water ran out the People lost faith but God gave them pure water from the rock to drink. When the food ran out the People lost faith again but God gave them manna from heaven. When they grew tired of the manna they complained and God gave them quails to eat. When Moses was on the top of Mt Sinai for 40 days and nights the People grew tired of waiting and deserted the God who had saved them and started worshipping a golden calf!

Each time they were unfaithful to him God forgave them, though not always without some punishment. Slowly he taught Israel that their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was a faithful, patient, understanding, forgiving, almighty and eternal God. Above all he wanted them to know that he loved them. In return he wanted the People to love him, and trust him with all their hearts, and to love each another for love of him.

For forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness, climbing the ladder of faith and then shamefully falling back again. Thus the wilderness became:
  • a place of temptation and a witness to the weakness, unfaithfulness and disobedience of the People. It became a place of shame and disgrace, a testimony to their failure to believe.
  • a place of purification of the People, a place where they learned to forsake false gods and cling only to the one, true God.
  • a place of revelation, a place where God revealed himself to his People.
  • a place of intimacy (honeymoon). God bound himself to them, much as a groom to his bride.
  • a place through which wound the roads leading to the Promised Land.
Jesus is the 'new Israel'. He is led by God into the wilderness where he is tempted for forty days:

- feed yourself
- gain glory for yourself
- take the initiative yourself

Where the Israelites fail Jesus succeeds. Not once does he break faith with God and entirely defeats Satan. After each temptation and against each temptation Jesus recalls Deuteronomy. Jesus is the new, faithful Israel.

We, you and I, face the same temptations as the People, and Jesus, faced; the temptation to 'call the shots', to 'play God'.

How are we doing? How is the 'resistance' going? If you're not having much success the Church suggests - prayer, fasting, almsgiving.

Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you will return.

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