WITH ST. MARY'S
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT
The Holy Spirit is preparing us for Lent.
FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT
The beginning words of this Sunday’s Gospel are also the first words we must reflect upon as we enter into the season of Lent: “At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus’ time in the desert is the basis of the penitential nature of the Lenten season. The reason the Gospel writers give for him going into the desert, though, is so that he would be tempted by the devil. Why did Jesus need to be tempted by the devil and why do we model the most significant season of the liturgical year for ourselves after this period of temptation? The answer lies within these words of the Gospel - Christ was led into the desert by the Spirit, and we are empowered to face our temptations with the help of the Spirit, as well.
READ THIS SUNDAY'S MESSAGE
One of the most famous passages in Scripture can be found in Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” We know that Christ entered the desert for 40 days primarily so that he could focus on praying. As a Jew who was well-versed in Scripture, he must have uttered these words from psalm 23 often. Christ’s prayers were often addressed to the Father because of their intensely intimate relationship with one another. However, the love between the Father and the Son is considered its own Divine Person, unique from the other two - we name it the Holy Spirit. As we read in the Gospel, it was this love between Father and Son that led Christ into the desert to be tempted. It was love expressed through obedience to the Father that made Christ desire to strengthen himself for the mission that laid ahead of him after his time in the desert. It was love for us that led the Father to send His Son to our world, and that love fortified and strengthened him when he needed it most in the face of temptation. We hear about the Spirit, the personification of Love itself, also in this Sunday’s first reading, when God blew into the nostrils of man the breath of life. It was the Spirit who animated us, who sent Christ into the desert, and who is with us in our own Lenten journeys. The image of Spirit as breath is crucial - the Hebrew word for breath or wind,ruach, is also the word for God’s Holy Spirit. The word for life or animation in Hebrew is nephesh, which originally means “throat”. Our souls were instilled within us when the breath of life, the Holy Spirit was breathed into the nostrils of Adam so that he would breathe as well. Our life ends when our own breath, a mere reflection of the Holy Breath of God, is no more. While being tempted in the desert, Christ was empowered to say no to temptation because the Breath of Life resided within him. If the Spirit led him into the desert, then the Spirit remained there with him. As we enter into our own spiritual deserts for the next 40 days modeled after Christ’s time in the desert, we can be assured that the Spirit remains with us. If we fall back into the temptations we sought to overcome during this season, though, we risk suffering the consequences of the Fall, when the breath of life was withdrawn from us at our death. We undergo the season of Lent so that we may experience life and humanity at its fullest, in perfect harmony with God. By doing so, we participate in the love that exists between Father and Son. We participate in the Spirit. However, we must first acknowledge the Spirit’s constant presence throughout our journey in life.
Family activity to do at home: Just as Christ dedicated his 40 days in the desert to prayer and fasting, we need to dedicate our 40 days of Lent to praying more. This can be mental or physical, and fasting is a wonderful way to put your thoughts and words into actions, to show God that you mean what you say and you say what you mean. But if our prayer life has not been as strong as it should be, we might need to build ourselves up to a point when we are ready to enact our innermost thoughts and petitions. Like with all things, prayer is stronger when we do it in community, and there is no community quite as strong as a family. Below, you can find a wonderful prayer for the first week of Lent meant to be prayed with your family before a crucifix. Make sure you use this season to grow in your own prayer life and to share it with those around you.