First Sunday of Lent ~ 6 March 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Deuteronomy 26: 4-10; Responsorial: Psalm 91; II: Romans 10: 8-13; Gospel: Luke 4: 1-13

Jesus in the Wilderness (Source unknown)

Today we share our first Sunday of Lent in the year of our Lord 2022. God’s Word for today speaks of God hearing and seeing the struggles and trials of those who seek to love and serve God. The Gospel proclaims the powerful lesson of Jesus in the Wilderness being tested by the devil. Scripture and the realities of the world share the harsh truths of good and evil and our choices to listen to and follow the prince of darkness or the Lord of Life. This intense drama faced by our Savior shows us so much of the ways of God when we too find ourselves in the wilderness of faith and life.

The Judean Wilderness (Photo source unknown)

When we think of temptations we think, usually, of our weakness and falling into sin. And let’s be honest that is a very real aspect of temptation when we make foolish choices and then find ourselves tempted to go… act… speak… in ways that are less than who we are. These same foolish choices, these temptations also apply when we choose NOT to go… act… speak as we know we should for God, for others or, for our true self. In these temptations, these testings we must remember temptation is NOT sin. Jesus was tempted, “in all ways like as we are, yet without sin” [Hebrews 4: 15]. God will always give us a way through the testing to grow in his grace.

But the Gospel today also shows us, very clearly, that even when we are in the very center of the plans of God for our life we will encounter temptation. We will be tested. Luke’s Gospel gives a very important insight into this blessed reality. Jesus had been baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin John. The epiphany witness of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bears witness to the incarnational presence of God and with God’s joy for this holy place and time. Then, from this exquisite place of God’s blessing, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus… into the wilderness of Judea to be tempted, to be tested by Satan.

Does God lead us to be tempted? Scripture is clear God does not tempt us but allows us to be tested. God does allow, lead us to be tested. The 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness were more precisely, a season and place of testing provided by God to allow Jesus the Son to be tested and to affirm the truth of who he was, of who he was called to be. So it is with each of us.

God may allow our own foolish choices and will use them to lead us to the fuller truth of who we are, and more importantly who God is. God also brings us chapters of life where we will be tested (tempted) to question God, life, ourselves, others) and, if we decide to follow on in the Light of God’s Word, to realize more powerfully who God is and of the world we are called in which to serve and grow.

Yet all this may seem meaningless if or when we have to live through the pain and suffering of people such as in Ukraine or the Tigray people in Ethiopia or any time and place of war, sickness, death, and disaster. Although their faith and love for God may be strong and real, their losses, suffering, and trials appear to be without end. Where is God and the promised help of His angels?

Aftermath, Battle of the Somme 1916
(Photo source unknown)

The testings of Jesus in the wilderness would be nothing compared to the pain, suffering, and death of his holy passion. But the intense pain of our Lord’s walk on earth shows us these sorrows are not the end. They are but moments in eternity. This does not minimize or pretend the pain and sufferings of Jesus were not real and horrific. Likewise, the pain and suffering of those following the Spirit of God through wildernesses of war, poverty, sickness, and suffering are facing true and intense loss. But for us all, looking to God we can learn and pass through these tests into God’s greater good. Life in and of this world is not the end. It is not the final chapter. And our growing through these tests is greatly helped when we learn to Listen.

We all have been led and will be again in the future, by the love of God’s Holy Spirit into a wilderness of testing. Our faith, our relationship with God, and each other may be challenged in ways that can bring us to grow. But there are two lessons Jesus would share from His wilderness times that can better empower us to grow on in Him.

It is helpful to note that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, to be tested. But it is evident Jesus discovered much more than the battles with the enemy. Jesus in the rest of his earthly ministry would return as often as able to the wilderness places to pray to be with His Father and rest in the Holy Spirit. He realized the wilderness was a time and place to listen.

Any time or place given by God is a place and time to listen. We so often focus upon THE TRIALS, THE TESTS! Often our reflections upon Jesus in the wilderness focus on the lies of the enemy, then upon the response of Christ. And in life, our focus so often is again, upon THE TRIALS, THE TESTS! Again they are real and we would be delusional to pretend otherwise. But if we will but listen we will learn they are only temporal, temporary events.

This season of Lent is a great opportunity to grow as listeners. I believe, also that the gift from our Church of the Synod is an immense opportunity in which we can grow as listeners, to God, and to each other.

Jesus in the wilderness heard, clearly, the lies and evil invitations of evil, of Satan. But he chose to also listen to the whole truth of God’s Word. And with the Sword of the Spirit, he was able to cut through the lies and false promises of darkness. Our Savior also learned to listen, without fear, to those who challenged him, who perhaps were failing in their walk with God. He was able to hear through their noise to what the human soul he loved was actually saying. And he was not afraid. It is why, as he was being crucified, hearing the sound of the nails and the taunts of the fear-filled doubters he was able to ask His Father to forgive them for they know not what they do.

There is so much noise in the human wilderness that is our world. But the eternal beauty truth and love of God are there to be heard if we will but listen. Let us hear the holy songs of those who died and suffered in the concentration camps of World War II that, with the intense poisonous clamor of hate and fear their lives still were able to sing of God’s love and mercy, even with the tears of their suffering. May we share that same holy melody of real, eternal hope with those who are bound by doubt, fear, hate, or ignorance of God’s mercy.

This season of Lent as we walk with Jesus in the wilderness of our own testings may we listen, hear and sing of God’s truth that sets us free to be and become all who Jesus redeemed us to be.

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi ~ A lesson from a man who sought the glories of war and learned to listen and live for the glories of God