|The First Sunday of Lent
Psalms 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
The Hebrew Scriptures are replete with stories, laws and songs intended to remind the people of Israel who they are. Moses gives many speeches confirming his followers in their identity.
Today Moses presents them with a liturgical instruction complete with gesture and words. Before presenting the gifts of their produce to the priests, they are to say and pray a short history of God’s wonderful care for them. They are to recall their having been oppressed and then saved and given a bountiful land. They present the fruits of this land as a testimony of God’s bountiful fidelity to them as a nation. They are to remind themselves in prayer, song, stories and liturgical form, that they are who they are by the loving goodness of God. This liturgy ends with those presenting the fruits of the land bowing down to God in the Lord’s presence. In this entire liturgy all goodness is attributed to God alone.
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as being tempted by the devil. There is an important difference between temptation and invitation. Jesus has been ordained in His baptism and takes all the events of His life as so many opportunities to recall His identity as the Beloved of God. The devil is presented as a tempter, but in reality he is only a part of a liturgy of reordaining or remembering. Jesus does not forget Who He is, but the readers or listeners of His story are reminded continually of His fidelity to Who He knows Himself to be.
We are treated to a liturgy within the Liturgy of the Word today. Jesus receives the invitation from the Devil to affirm His baptism, ordination and destiny. Jesus takes the big “if” word and replaces it with “Yes I am.” A temptation has the possibility of succumbing to some form of infidelity. Invitation holds within it the possibility of some form of life and deepening. Jesus changed everything in His life into a deeper experiencing of living the relationship with the God Who invited Him into life itself.
The Devil departed from Him for “a while.” In all the events leading up to and including the “temptation” in the Garden, Jesus was invited and responded to His true identity as the “beloved” of God. The Devil is seen, not as defeated, but as merely put off stage for a while in this liturgy of affirmation.
We have been reminded in our reception of ashes, that we are mortals, with all that this means. We are also reminded that we are blessed and the beloved of God every time we gather at the Liturgy of Remembering. Lent has many meanings for us, but being mortal and blessed as beloved have to be present for the season to be “this joyful season.” We may propose to “give up” something for Lent; sugar, alcohol and TV. These are usually things, which are good in themselves, but not always good for us. As we go through these forty days we might experience temptations to give in rather than give up. These moments then become times of invitation by recalling who we are in God’s eyes and choosing again to be good to the beloved as God wants to be good to that same beloved.
Lent is a liturgy of remembering who God says we are culminating in the dramatic gesture of presenting Jesus as the Fruit of God’s undying love for us on the cross. The liturgy of Moses, the liturgy of Jesus, the liturgy of each Eucharist, are all ways of reminding God’s people of who they are. Lent itself is a liturgy of changing temptations to forget into invitations to remember. We struggle to put aside those things, which make us sad, unlovable in our own eyes, and all those things, which tempt us to “unliving.”
When he calls to me, I will answer; I will rescue him and give him honor. Long life and contentment will be his.
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