Ash Wednesday and First Sunday of Lent

& archive, Year C.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You see how bent over we are
Under the weight of the world’s habits.
Unburden us
Clear the path within our soul
Lift up our heads to see you
Our hearts to love you
To follow you
To stay with you.

Ash Wednesday and First Sunday in Lent

As we enter into the season of Lent, those forty days before Holy Week and Easter,
the lectionary guide takes us into the wilderness as Jesus is being led by the Spirit into this deserted place. Lent is a season when we are invited to take time to reflect more deeply on this profound journey Jesus is making to the cross. Take some time to adjust to this barren landscape: the rocks, sand, stony gravel. No houses or gardens, just a few scrubby trees. Sink into the silence.

Be present to this emptiness – where all that is familiar is stripped away and there is nothing but you and God.
(pause, be present)

The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into this barren waste to be tempted by the Devil. There is holy intent at work. Here Jesus will face into who he is now that he has pitched his tent among humankind, and how he will rescue the world and bring all things back into harmony with God the Creator.

After forty days and nights of fasting In this silent barrenness a voice sounds:
“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
Famished, Jesus looks through the haze at the rocky floor; the stones begin to look like loaves of bread. He knows he has the power. But the devil’s offer twists the reality of God: “IF you are the Son of God . . . “ This is the mark of the devil’s temptation: an attack on God-given identity; who we truly are in the image of God. Who Jesus truly is as the Son of God. The temptation is not about what we as human beings are attached and addicted to; this is the way of the world and its temptations – to catch us where we are already caught. The devil’s ploy is much more sinister: to speak into the God-breathed core of who we are, where resides our deepest self and the charism and gift of who we
are. Transforming stones into bread is the offer – but the act is so construed as to hinge on Jesus’ identity: If he is the Son of God.

Our identity is both a gift and a given – from God. We do not earn or need to work to make ourselves into something or somebody. We do not need to pull off spectacular feats to prove who we are. And Jesus knows this. His very sustenance is in God. This is the reality which Jahweh invited his people to embrace as they tracked the wastes of the desert on their way from Egypt to the land of promise: to know that God gives them manna as a gift, and that they are more than physical body. They are created in the image of God and God-breathed; spirit at the core. Hence, only bread will never fully satisfy. And hence Jesus’ reply: Humankind cannot live on bread alone, but is in need of God’s sustenance for the soul.

The devil is not done; not yet. Twice more he attempts to infiltrate the very fiber of Jesus’ being, to divide him off against his very core self and God. Satan offers him all the kingdoms of the world and their authority, if Jesus will worship him – if Jesus will allow the devil and his ways to finally dominate his soul as he bows before the arch-enemy of God. Jesus leans into the words he learned as a little child, “Hear, O Israel, You shall love the Lord your God . . . he alone shall your worship,“ and so rejects the offer of world domination at the price of being dominated by the Devil.

Again the devil tries: If you are the Son of God, do the spectacular: prove that God exists and can show up to do the miraculous. Just think how the people would respond! Again, the “if”. Again Jesus leans into the givenness of who he is, and into the simple trust that he does not need to prove God’s existence or presence. God is. God is present. Jesus remembers the rebellion in the wilderness, when the people riled up against Moses because as they pitched camp at Rephidim they could find no water. Thirsty and angry, they complain that Moses had brought them out of Egypt to kill them and their children and livestock. Then they hurl the accusation that they did not know if Jahweh was present and with them or not. (See Exodus 17:1-7). Thus Jesus responds to Satan, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” We do not need to prove God’s existence or presence, or manipulate God into showing up. Jahweh provides water — from the rock. And the people drink. God is present. God provides. Jesus
rejects this third ruse of Satan: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

The devil, now done with this round of temptations, leaves.

Angels now come, bringing Jesus sustenance and care. God is setting a table for him on the barren floor of the wilderness.

Pause, turn your attention to God.
As you are ready, get in touch with how you are tempted.
How do you respond?
Become aware of the gift and givenness of who you are as a child of God, indwelt by the Spirit of God.
What confession do you desire to make?
For what are you grateful?

Dear Lord,
Help me to listen to your voice, your guidance.
Free me from being blind to who you are,
And who I truly am.
Release me from captivity to the world’s ways,
The temptation of proving myself.
Help me to stay with you,
To trust God’s presence and care.
Amen

Ash Wednesday and First Sunday in Lent
2/11 Monday: Luke 4:1-8
2/12 Tuesday: Luke 4:9-13
2/13 Ash Wednesday: Psalm 51:1-17; Joel 2:1-2,12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
2/14 Thursday: Deuteronomy 16:1-11
2/15 Friday: Romans 10:8b-13
2/16 Saturday: Luke 4:1-8
2/17 First Sunday in Lent: Luke 4:9-13