February 26, 2017

Reflection on the First Sunday of Lent, Matthew 4:1-11

Crucifixion of Jesus Christ icon
Crucifixion of Jesus icon, Moldovita Monastery, Moldavia, Romania.

The First Sunday of Lent, March 5, 2011

By Father Bernard Bourgeois

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

What are your memories of Lent? Are they of Friday fish sticks, Stations of the Cross, or purple vestments? How about the sacrament of reconciliation? Maybe any or all of these make you think of Lent and its call to holiness. And that’s what Lent really is! It is a call to holiness and a deepening of the unity between the disciple and Jesus. Ultimately the goal of any prayer or liturgical season is unity with Christ, as much as possible while here on earth, and in its fullness in eternal life. Lent is a period of retreat. In it, the faithful are called to walk the path of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

The second reading for this Sunday (see above) reminds the Church of the focus of Lent. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says the following: “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned…” This is a discussion on the role of Adam in the economy of salvation. Remember that both the Old and New Testaments begin with trees. There is the tree in the center of Paradise from which Adam and Eve ate the fruit forbidden by God. In the New Testament, there is the tree of the cross on which Jesus was hanged. Paul, in Romans, continues: “In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all.” Adam’s sin (from the tree in the center of Paradise) brought condemnation and death. Jesus’ act of dying on the cross forgave Adam’s sin and brought forgiveness and life to all. In Lent, the faithful Christian seeks forgiveness for the sins of his or her life that come through the tree of Adam. Through works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the person makes a concerted effort to surface that which in his life is sinful.

The path to forgiveness and life in Christ is to carry one’s cross with him over Golgotha. Lent helps the mature Christian realize that without the cross, there is no hope. Sinfulness is much like an addiction, and anyone who has overcome addictions knows the first step toward healing is to admit the problem exists. So it goes with sinfulness. The only way for the person to overcome sinfulness is to realize its power over the person and then to embrace the cross.

Why would anyone embrace the cross? What good will that do? Embracing the cross is not a magic wand that will get waved over one’s head and all sinfulness is gone. If it were only that easy! No, the reason to embrace the cross is to see the resurrection. Yes, the cross is not the final chapter of the story! The resurrection of Jesus, celebrated on Easter, is the ending of the story. The death and resurrection of Jesus form a single event, which became the most important event in all of human history. As sinners, Christians embrace the cross in order to die with Christ, and then rise with him. Christians are now people of hope. They realize that there will be a time when all sin has come to an end, and there will be only a life of peace, joy, and eternal happiness with God. Christ and his cross are our only hope! It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that forgiveness is possible. That’s how much God loves us!

Walking the path of the cross is the work of Lent. Traditionally the faithful do that in three ways: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is an intense period of prayer in which each person is called to find ever new ways of prayer. Spend some extra time in Church. Participate in daily Mass and the Stations of the Cross. Read the Scriptures or find some other way to pray more deeply. Each person is called to fast in some way. Put away something that distracts you from Christ. Sacrificing is a great way to see that all one needs is Christ. Finally, find ways of being generous with your time, talent, and treasure. Yes, give until it hurts, as the cliché reminds us. Again, you will see that giving helps you understand the need of Christ in your life. This is the journey of Lent. Pray that when you wake up Easter Sunday morning, you are a person who has embraced the cross of Christ to be a person of hope!

No comments :