Abbot Richard’s Gospel Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

First Sunday of Lent – 5 March 2017

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11

Nourishment, Security and Power

Each year as we mark the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday we are reminded in the Gospel that Lent is about three things – prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Yet most of us probably still think of Lent as a time for giving up something – “What are you giving up for Lent?” we asked one another as children.  Whether we give up something or decide to do something extra for Lent, Jesus’ point is that we shouldn’t be making a big thing about it, looking for attention or seeking the approval of others.  It’s a time rather for reviewing our actions and attitudes – and fasting is one of the tools that helps in this because fasting makes us more aware of our vulnerabilities.

In the Gospel this Sunday we find Jesus in the wilderness at the end of a period of forty days of fasting. His vulnerabilities are exposed and he is tempted by the devil.  Each of the three temptations highlights a significant area of our lives where we have to make important choices.

The first temptation concerns nourishment. Forty days of fasting would make any of us hungry but Jesus points out that we need more than physical nourishment – that we also need to nourish our minds with the word of God, the Holy Scriptures are the nourishment for our souls.

The second temptation concerns security. The devil tempts Jesus to throw himself off the top of the temple to see if God will send his angels to save him.  But Jesus points out that trust in God is not about giving into reckless behaviour but rather allowing God to work through us as we do our best to follow him.  Our security is in doing God’s will, not in putting God to the test.

The final temptation is about power. The devil tempts Jesus by offering him personal power and status, independent of God – offering him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour”. Jesus’ reply is that we must worship God, for he alone is the source of our power.

These three temptations are relevant to all of us, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in. As we begin this Lent we are challenged to ask ourselves “Where do I find my nourishment, security and power?”  Is it from God or from something else?  Do I nourish my mind with the Word of God?  Do I trust God to work in my life or do I put him to the test?  Do I seek personal power and status or do I recognise the power of God working in my life?  Lent is a time for looking again at where we get our nourishment, security and power – may we use this time well.

Fr Richard Purcell ocso