Sunday Reflection - First Sunday of Lent
Posted: Sat, 05 Mar 2022 08:22
On this first Sunday of Lent, Luke presents his version of the Temptation in the Desert. Like so many before him and since, Jesus makes the decision to go out into the desert: with no distraction, the Lord chose to spend forty days alone, in prayer and fasting. Last Wednesday we began our Lenten journey with a change of heart. It is good that we are faced with this picture of temptation so early on in our Camino through Lent. Some might feel horrified that the incarnate Word of God could be tempted by the forces of evil. Sharing our human nature to the full, Jesus experiences those problems, difficulties and issues that we all share.
Evil does not come to us under the guise of bearded man with horns and tail, holding a large fork! In my experience, evil and hurt comes under a much more acceptable appearance, often from people we trust and respect. In offering Jesus bread, the devil reveals the temptation to give people what they want rather than what they need. Bread might fill an immediate need and satisfy hunger in the stomach, but there are other hungers too. As Christians, we need to hunger and thirst for justice and peace. We need to hunger for equality and call for the end to any type of discrimination. We can think of situations of seemingly wealthy people who 'have it all' yet are desperately unhappy. Jesus is asking us to address our deepest hungers today so that we can bring joy and happiness not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others too.
'BOVA' is the Bosco Volunteer organisation that is run in by the British Salesian Province. It provides an opportunity for anyone to spend some time as a volunteer in a Salesian project around the world. Volunteers are of various ages who respond to needs that they see in the world. It is a chance to feed young people in need—sometimes quite literally. As our world slowly comes back to a sense of normality, there may be some in your family or parish who might welcome this fantastic opportunity to give something back. St Teresa of Calcutta would often say that the greatest hunger in the world was not the need for food—she saw that true care and concern was more important. Love can be the antidote to indifference, cruelty and the deep hurt that we can be all too obvious in our communities. The temptation to be cruel and continue the cycle of hurt may be so easy for some, but the world be the worst for it.
Jesus shows us that we do not need spectacular events, like throwing yourself off the Temple, to ease the hunger of our world. In the solitude of the desert, Jesus has never been closer to humanity. Perhaps these past two years has been that desert experience that we all need. In the heart of lockdown, we were told to keep away from others—even our weekly Eucharist could become a super-spreader, and we saw our church buildings closed. In that loneliness, I certainly saw my need for community and companionship. I suspect that all of us have had to draw on reservoirs of strength that we might not have realised. Let us never use our sense of compassion and care, even though the temptation to be harsh and hard can sometimes be easier. In his pandemic encyclical 'Fratelli Tutti', Pope Francis reminds us that we cannot sit on the fence. Caring for others has to come at a personal cost, as the Gospel reminds us so often. This wakeup call of Pope Francis is a call to empathy and understanding. We can only move forward if our Church does not become a bystander. Like the Good Samaritan of Luke's parable, our call, especially this Lent is to be involved, and not pass by when we see injustice, prejudice and wrong. The Good Samaritan's love is not bound by his cultural differences with the Judean man to whom he ministers. Nor does he use inconvenience as an excuse not to provide aid, as the Levite and the priest do, or to expect some kind of reward for his generosity. Instead of focusing on whether the man he encounters is good enough to be his neighbour, the Samaritan is an example of waking up to see the reality of true Christian living, as 'Fratelli Tutti' reminds us
The Samaritan became a neighbour to the wounded Judean. By approaching and making himself present, he crossed all cultural and historical barriers. Jesus concludes the parable by saying: "Go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37). In other words, he challenges us to put aside all differences and, in the face of suffering, to draw near to others with no questions asked. I should no longer say that 'I have neighbours to help, but that I must myself be a neighbour to others.' (FT 81)
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB