First Sunday of Lent

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In today’s Gospel from Saint Luke we heard that when Jesus came up from His baptism in the Jordan the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. These 40 days signify the 40 years Israel spent wandering in the wilderness before finally entering the promised land. Why didn’t God make them wait 40 years? It wasn’t His original plan, but when He tried to lead them in the people were overcome with fear of the current occupants and did not trust that God would or even could fulfill His promise. It was 40 long years until that generation died before God could bring their children into the land and fulfill His promise. While they wandered they were tested; God gave them ample opportunities to grow in their trust in Him. Yet over and over when they were put to the test, they failed.

When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan He also received His anointing as king by the Holy Spirit. He came to set His people free and lead them into the promised land. He was the New Adam, the New Moses, the new Joshua and the new Israel, besides being the new King David. To set His people free He first went back to fight and win the battles they had lost so many years ago. Jesus left the wilderness victorious, and He won that grace for us. By our baptism Christ lives in us and makes us victorious as well.

Lent is a special season set apart for us by the Church as a time of prayer and fasting so as to enter more deeply into the Paschal mystery and the mystery of our salvation. It is a time for penance, not because meat or chocolate or whatever we might give up is evil, but because it is good, and to give up good things for a time will strengthen our will so that when we are confronted and tempted by evil we may, through God’s grace, be victorious. It is a time to have our hearts purified for a deeper love for God.

Then, as before, I lay prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no food, I drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed in the sight of the LORD, doing wrong and provoking him. For I dreaded the fierce anger of the LORD against you: his wrath would destroy you. Yet once again the LORD listened to me.
—Deuteronomy 9:18-19