Sunday Reflection: Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness. He is challenged to turn stones into food, to jump from the top of the temple, and to gain all the world’s wealth and glory by bowing to the tempter. But, he resists, using God’s word as his guide.
What is interesting about the readings for this week is that the focus, rather than being on Jesus’ temptation, is on God’s care, protection and provision for God’s people. When the temptation narrative is placed in that context, our focus shifts dramatically – and importantly – away from fear of failure or succumbing to evil, and on to God’s resources that are at our disposal to keep us strong and faithful. Let us make this week about God – God’s care, God’s Word, God’s protection, God’s provision – which means that we can rest assured that whatever we may face, “the best of all is ‘God is with us’” as Wesley said.
The three Lenten disciplines emerge – fasting (to confront our consumption and appetites); giving of time, abilities and resources (to confront our love of power and pride); prayer (to confront our self-dependence and security issues). As individuals, and as faith communities, embracing these practices – not just in Lent – is the easiest way to confront the evil within and without. As Mother Teresa famously said: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
What Is Lent? Last Wednesday, the church begun its observance of the Lenten Season, the 40-day period before Easter. The period of 40 days, which traditionally does not include Sundays, commemorates the “40 days and 40 nights” (Matthew 4:2) that Jesus fasted in the desert and then resisted temptations from Satan.
The word “Lent” comes from an Old English word for “spring,”and is derived from the German word “lang,” meaning “long,” because during this season before Easter, the hours of daylight become longer.
The Book of Common Prayer explains Lent in this way: “In the primitive church, it was the custom to observe with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, to prepare for the same by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided also a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when such persons as had, by reason of notorious sins, been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled and restored to the fellowship of the church by penitence and forgiveness.”
(Book of Common Prayer, pp. 611-612)
The Church invites us to observe Lent “by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and alms giving, and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”
(Book of Alternative Services, p. 282)