By Father Christopher M. O’Connor
DURING LENT, those of us who pray the breviary, read the story of Israel and the exodus from Egypt.
Every year when I read the account, I have the same reaction: “How could they be so stupid? Did they not see all the Lord had done for them? Were the ten plagues not enough? Did not the crossing of the Red Sea convince them of God’s power and might? He even gave them bread to eat and they still complained against God, what is wrong with them?”
Every year I ask those questions, I am then forced to look at my own life and see how much I imitate them in my lack of trust and faith in God.
Faithfulness from Temptation
With this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke, we see Jesus going into the desert just as the ancient Israelites did, but with one major difference: Jesus always remains faithful. Just as the Israelites walked in the desert for 40 years, Jesus walks for 40 days, but where they failed, Jesus shows the true path of faithfulness to the Father.
The first temptation in Luke is to turn the stone into bread since Jesus is hungry after 40 days. This is reminiscent of when Israel complained about the lack of food in the desert. They lamented the loss of the food they had in Egypt, preferring slavery and full bellies to freedom in God. They lacked the trust in God who then showers them with manna from heaven.
Jesus is not tempted to abuse his power to turn stone into bread but responds “One does not live on bread alone.”
The second temptation is the devil asking Jesus to bow down and worship him. This one recalls how Israel failed to keep the covenant they made on Mount Sinai and worshipped the golden calf.
Frustrated by Moses’ absence on the mountain and showing a lack of patience with God, they create an idol. Just as Israel failed and worshipped a false god, Satan wants Jesus to fail and worship the creature of God and not God.
Silly Traps and Tricks
Jesus does not fall for this silly trap and responds, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.”
The third temptation is when the devil brings Jesus to the parapet of the temple and tells him to test God by throwing himself off and let God save him.
This temptation reminds us of how the Israelites tested God because they lacked water and were ready to give up on God and return to Egypt. Jesus easily rebukes the evil one by saying, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
The Israelites failed and gave into temptation. They lacked trust in God and in his love for them. Jesus does not fall into temptation and maintains always his trust in the Father and the Father’s love.
Follow Jesus’ Example
As we enter the Lenten desert for 40 days, we are given the option: to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ or fail like the ancient Israelites.
The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to resist the temptations of our lives and united ourselves more clearly to Jesus. St. Paul, in our second reading, writes to the Romans, “No one who believes in Him will be put to shame” and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Lent affords us the opportunity to grow in our belief, trust and love for God so that we can call on the name of the Lord frequently.
Our first reading from Deuteronomy informs us of what was expected of the Israelites after they left the desert and entered the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. They were to offer to God a basket of the good of the land to show God gratitude.
As we journey through Lent and come to Easter, we are given the opportunity to show God gratitude from all the graces we received this Lent.
Our focus is not to lose weight or just stop a bad habit, but to see how God walks the journey with us as He was the pillar of fire and cloud for the Israelites.
Goodness of God
Lent is meant to be a time where we recognize God more in our lives, that we see how much we need God and how foolish it is not to see the goodness of God present in all aspects of our lives.
Let us walk with Jesus this Lent saying “no” to temptation, but more importantly saying “yes” to more of God in our midst.
Readings for the First Sunday in Lent
Deuteronomy: 26: 4-10
Romans 10: 8-13
Father O’Connor is the pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, Woodside.