Thursday, March 10, 2011

First Sunday of Lent Year C: Reflections- Fr. Michael U.Udoekpo

First Sunday of Lent Year C: Reflections- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 26:4-10; Ps 91:1-2, 10-15; Rom 10:8-13 and Luke 4:1-13

Living by Every Word from the Mouth of God

The story of the temptation  or testing of  Jesus in the wilderness by Satan after Jesus’ Baptism is narrated in the first Sunday of Lent of Years A, B, C, by the three Evangelist Matthew, Mark and Luke with very minor variations. The essence of the narrative is not about these variations, as it is the spiritual and ethical lessons behind these temptations especially as we begin the discipline of Lent; a time prayer, fasting, alms giving, spiritual renewal and openness to every Word of God, knowing that we who were baptized can also be tempted.

The three temptations demanding Jesus to turn stone into bread, to prostrate to Satan or jump from a high storey temple building for a prize, if he was truly the Son of God, reminds us today that  temptation or testing of one’s faith and love for God is not a new phenomenon. If I may mention some, for example the temptation to abuse our God given power meant originally for service, the temptation to disrespect our parents and superiors, mentors and teachers or even our God given talents; the temptation to control people and material things for ones selfish advantage or to be unfaithful to God, even in secret is as old as creation.

We see this in the story of the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. Tempted by the Serpent, they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden (Gen3:1-7). When the Egyptians maltreated the children of Israel it took God’s intervention to liberate them through the wilderness journey to the Promised Land, which we read in the Books of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings. This journey was not an easy one. There were temptations of hunger and thirstiness. Moses was often being challenged. After the death of Joshua who succeeded Moses, most of the Judges in Israel did whatever they like (Judges 17:6; 19:1; 21:25). They were quite unfaithful, disobedient to God and idolatry became the order of the day till the rise of Samuel, Saul, the Monarchy, the divided kingdom with persistent idolatry by most of the kings of Israel and consequent exile. Sins and falling into temptations have consequences. Faithfulness to God and resisting temptations has its blessings.

 This faithfulness to God is what Jesus teaches us today by resisting those three commands and eloquence of the devil. Though fully human, the divine power of Christ was not meant for his own glory, personal prestige and wealth, but for the glory of God and for the service to humanity. We saw this in his feeding of the thousands of men, women and children inn Matthew 14:15-21, 15:32-38, in turning water into wine in John 2, in his healing and forgiving ministries and in his raising Lazarus from the death free of charge and in his teaching on universal love of Greek, Jew and the Gentiles. St. Paul testifies to this when he says, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him’ (Rom 10:8-13).

Not that we have not been calling upon Jesus. Lent is the time we want to intensify our call upon Jesus from the depth of our hearts. It is not a time for hypocrisy. It is a time we want to acknowledge our brokenness and need for fixing and restoration which those Wednesday’s ashes symbolize in our faith journeys. It is time we also want to take more precaution against the temptation to disrespect God, our parents, people of all genders, ourselves, the teachings of the church or our neighbors. It is also a time we might want to put love of neighbors first before the temptation to dominate them. It is a time we want to be more charitable by works of mercy, both spiritual and material to our communities, brothers and sisters; a time not to give into modern idolatry, possessiveness, power, manipulating the weak, abuse of our talents and materialism. And we want to be able to say with Jesus, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).