Today, from Sacred Scripture, we hear stories of temptation and sin. We hear how Eve was tempted and how she and Adam disobeyed the Lord. We also hear how the devil tempted Jesus, even using Sacred Scripture, to tempt Him and how Jesus rebuffed the tempter. These are two very dramatic accounts of temptation, however, as it says in the first reading ‘the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts’, therefore when he tempts us it is more often than not far more subtle; we rarely experience sin in such dramatic and straightforward ways. Often our sins are difficult to recognise and harder to acknowledge. As we have evolved into more complex beings, so too has the tempter, who has become more devious and subtle convincing many to believe that he doesn’t exist.
What could help us to learn how sin is working in our life?1
The answer is also in today’s readings, when Jesus says “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. In his Gospel, St Matthew places the temptation of Christ immediately after he had placed the Baptism of the Lord, an event where those who would listen would have heard God the Father say “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Through our Baptism we are brought into this family, we become sons and daughters of God, making Jesus our brother. Like any other family, we have to grow and get to know the other members of our family as we mature and develop, this is not just a physical and emotional development and maturity; we also have to grow in our faith.
This season of Lent, where we enter into the desert with Christ using the three tools the Church has graced us with of fasting, prayer and alms giving, allows us to have a fresh start, to renew our commitment to God. As Christians, we know that Easter is coming; as Catholics we know that we will be asked to renew our Baptismal promises at Easter. This season of Lent allows us to prepare for that renewal, not to just turn up and think this is a nice change from saying the Creed. This year, like every other year we have an opportunity to develop new, good habits which can help us break free from the shackles of sin. Jesus gave everything for us, we are asked to give our lives to Him, and each year we need to review where we are on that journey and make conscious decisions on what we are going to do to give ourselves more fully to Him.
Through fasting we are not just giving something up, we get closer to Christ by the use of self-control or as the Catechism states ‘help us acquire a mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.’ This freedom of heart allows us to love God and our neighbour more fully.
Through prayer we spend more time in dialogue with God; this helps us to develop a more intimate and lasting relationship. As St Pio said “Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact, on certain occasions, you should only speak to Him with your heart.”2
Through almsgiving we give up some of the bounty, which God has given us, to others who are in need. In doing so, we unite ourselves with the poor, the orphan, the homeless, the addict, the prisoner, those displaced by natural disaster or war. We are asked to remember that next Friday is a voluntary fast day for Cafod and that any money we save from that fast can be donated to further their crucial work.
Like many of you, Ash Wednesday also started The Big Lent Walk for Cafod. There are a group of us at St Bede’s who are taking part and the proceeds are going to Cafod to help fight Global Poverty. When I looked at this yesterday morning on the Cafod website, the St Bede’s Team were second in the country. There’s also an invitation in the week’s newsletter to join us for a parish walk on the 18th March, it will be a great community day and a chance to raise even more for Cafod.
If you are able to donate, and would like to support me, my page is https://cafod.enthuse.com/pf/tony-darroch
All donations are gratefully received.
In the Gospel Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. Jesus’ time of fasting and prayer strengthened Him for this encounter. The desert was not a place where Jesus was left alone; it was a place where He was very much supported and accompanied by The Spirit. For us as Christians Lent is not a time where we are left alone by God, it is a time where God’s presence and activity is to be recognised.
May all of us be blessed with a Spirit filled Lent.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 394, 538-540, 2119: the temptation of Jesus
CCC 2846-2849: “Lead us not into temptation”
CCC 385-390, 396-400: the Fall
CCC 359, 402-411, 615: Adam, Original Sin, Christ the New Adam
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the pastoral area formation programme ‘The Wild Goose’ which we are using as part of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
- Those attending our RCIA programme and all who attended the Rite of Election at the Cathedral on Saturday 25th February.
1 Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons and Weekdays, The almanac for Pastoral Liturgy, [Liturgy Training Publication, Chicago, IL, 2022]98.