Since last Wednesday we began a very important period in the Church : Lent. It is a forty-day penitential season spent in preparation for Easter. Forty is a symbolic number indicating a special time of preparation before a substantial meeting with God. The Ashes we received at the beginning of lent reminds us that our bodies are made of dust (Gen 2:7), and upon death they return to “dust and ashes” (Gen 18:17). During this time, emphasis will be made on conversion and on Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. This will empower us to fight against temptation.
The first Sunday of lent generally focuses on this theme of the temptation of Jesus. The account of the temptation we are given in the Gospel of Mark reads almost like a telegram-it is sounds staccato. There are just two verses compared to the lengthier and fuller eleven verses of Matthew and thirteen of Luke. Mark doesn’t bother about the content of the various temptations, he simply states the fact bluntly: he remained forty days, and was tempted by Satan. The wild beasts are traditional symbols of evil and like Satan they prowl around looking for any signs of weakness.
The Gospel of Mark underlines the theme of 40 days. Just as Jesus was tempted in the desert after 40 days of stay in the wilderness, we too are taking a period of 40 days to enable us to resist temptation like Jesus. Therefore, in the face of these temptations undergone by Jesus, the majority of us would not have resisted even for one minute. Much more, we would have justified our decision with many excuses, so that we would be convinced of having made the good choice. Which human being can resist the temptation that offers us power and dominion and wealth? The politicians and business men among us understand this better and could be in the best position to tell us. We should learn that evil has its nest in our heart, it does not come from outside. We do not have another solution but to open our heart to the presence of God who saves us.
The Church gives us the liturgical season of Lent to help us to endure the time of testing whenever it comes. In Lent we are invited to undergo some small hardship as a spiritual exercise, as a strengthening and a preparation for that real time of testing that awaits us. We are encouraged to resist temptation. As Pope Francis tells us in his Lenten message for 2015 this is possible by following these words : “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8)
Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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