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FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
‘In a certain sense we are our own parents. We bring ourselves to birth through the decisions we take’ (St. Gregory of Nyssa). The choices we make give shape and direction to our lives. In the wilderness Jesus firmly rejected the temptations of Satan and confirmed the direction that his baptism had given to his life.
Forty days of fasting and prayer strengthened him for the time of testing. The desert was regarded as a place of danger, a space where the demons and wild beasts dwelt. When the Hebrews escaped from Egypt and found the wilderness very demanding they were tempted to go back to Egypt, to regress in order to avoid what was unpleasant.
Jesus did not seek to escape from the wilderness and find refuge in circumstances that were less exacting. Led by the Spirit, he had the protective care of the angels as he faced the forces of evil head-on. In prayer he reaffirmed that his life revolved around communion with his Father. All genuine prayer puts God at the centre. Prayer keeps priorities clear. Committed to service of his Father in everything he undertook, Jesus refused to be side-tracked by the empty promises of Satan. For all of us the price of freedom is constant vigilance. Good decisions expand that freedom, making the next good choice somewhat easier.
Jesus points the way to follow if we wish to grow in inner freedom. It is through choosing God and through rejecting evil in all its forms. The reality is that there are forces outside us and deep within us that are hostile to the values of the gospel. Good choices bring us closer to maturity and true freedom.
There are two important lessons to be learned on our path through life. The first is that there is a God and the second is that I’m not He ! Lent seeks to teach us those lessons. Today’s gospel refers to repentance and conversion. True repentance is coming back to God. True conversion is looking at God. Many of the Psalms begin with a phrase like O God, you are my God, thus putting God at the centre and declaring that he is God in my life.
In the time of Jesus fasting expressed dependence on God, sometimes urgent need of his help. We need someone to lean on for strength. Fasting can teach us to lean on God