Gospel Reflection for Sunday February 21st 2021 The First Sunday of Lent
Jesus is tempted and tested
Having started our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, we now find ourselves in the desert with Jesus as he is tempted and tested. Mark’s account of Jesus in the desert is short, sharp and very direct; Jesus is in the desert with the wild beasts. This is as real and as human as it gets. He is tested but does not give in nor give up. There is no actual mention of the ‘temptations’ but they are there nevertheless; they are implied rather than named. Rather than give into his temptations, Jesus remained faithful to God and his mission of announcing the arrival of God’s Kingdom. He left the desert with courage and conviction and began to proclaim the Good News. Jesus began his public ministry and we begin Lent with the message repent and believe the good news.
We know that each of us is tempted and tested in many ways each day. These ‘temptations’ are often small and seemingly insignificant. Our temptations may not be as dramatic as those of Jesus, but they are no less real or dangerous. Temptations come to us as attractive and appealing. If and when we give into them, we hand over our power to them and they control us. If however, we can not only face but also resist them, then we retain our power over them. This requires more than just our efforts. Like Jesus, we need to turn to God and ask for the strength and courage when we are tempted and tested.
As St. Paul knew well from his facing his own demons and temptations when he wrote,
‘three times I have asked the Lord that it might leave me; but the Lord said, my grace is enough for you: for my power and presence is strongest when you are weak.’ (2 Cor. 12.9-12)
Paul had the wisdom and humility to be honest both with himself and God. He knew he couldn’t face his weakness and temptations on his own; like Jesus, he too needed to ask God to strengthen and encourage him. As we begin Lent, can we in faith and with humility ask Jesus to walk with us to guide, lead and protect us? While he was in the desert being tempted Jesus was not on his own and neither are we as we make our way through Lent. We don’t have to face our temptations and weaknesses on our own. Jesus, because he himself has been tempted, he is able to help others who are tempted. (Hebrews 2.18)
If we try to be faithful to our Lenten promises by ourselves and if we try to make this forty day journey on our own, it is going to be a long hard road. We need the prayers and support of those around us to strengthen and encourage us. When we say the I Confess, we pray these words; I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to Lord our God. This is what it means to belong to the Body of Christ; we are called to pray with and for each other. During Lent we need each other especially when we are tempted and feel like giving up. Following the example of Jesus, let us also turn to God and ask for the strength we need for the journey ahead. Jesus turned to God and was not alone; as we make our way through Lent, neither are we.
I love you Lord, you are my defender. The Lord is my protector, my strong fortress. God is my protection, with whom I am safe. God protects, defends me and keeps me safe. I call to the Lord and I am saved from enemies. In my troubles, I call to the Lord; God hears my voice and listens to my cry for help. (Psalm 18. 1-3,6).
– Br Michael Moore OMI
Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the angels looked after him
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
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