Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gospel Reflection

February 17, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Lenten Season
First Sunday of Lent
by Rev. Fr. Jim Ferry (San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex EDSA, Guadalupe, Makati)
6;00PM Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 Dt 26:4-10

Moses spoke to the people, saying:  “The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry
and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, I have now brought you the first fruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in his presence.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15

R. (cf. 15b) Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
No evil shall befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your tent,
For to his angels he has given command about you,
that they guard you in all your ways.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Upon their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the asp and the viper;
you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
Because he clings to me, I will deliver him;
I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in distress;
I will deliver him and glorify him.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.

Reading 2 Rom 10:8-13

Brothers and sisters: What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart—that is, the word of faith that we preach—, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Gospel Lk 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.”Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.


On this first Sunday of Lent, in the ancient Liturgy and the celebrations of Lent, this will be called the first stational mass. The Pope will go to a parish in Rome, and begin the celebration there, and then while they are singing the hymn, gradually they would go in procession to the Pope's own church, the Lutheran Basilica. And there, the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist, will take place. 

On this very first Sunday of Lent, we hear Deuteronomy and Moses speaking, reminding the people of all the good things God has done for them. God delivered them from darkness and captivity from Egypt. He brought them to this new land. And now, because of that delivery from slavery to freedom, they could plant their own vegetables, they could plant their own fields. And now is the time to bring their harvest in; they bring the first fruits of their harvest to the temple, and they offer it to the Almighty God. And this reminds them to always be a people of gratitude and thanksgiving for all that God has done. 

In Paul's letter to the Romans, he emphasizes once again the importance of faith in Jesus. But not a faith that shouts all the time, "Lord, Lord!" and thinking that it is sufficient, because we have been baptized in the name of Jesus and we, therefore, are saved. Faith must be lived out. Faith must be an expression of our belief, of our love in Jesus. And to us who are following Christ, that faith should be seen in our relationships with one another. We are called to holiness. And Lent reminds us of this holiness. 

Maybe like our ancestors, there have been times during this past year that we have forgotten to thank the Lord for all the gifts He has given to us. Or maybe during this past year, we have not been people of faith. We have not been faithful to the Gospel of Jesus. When we heard the words on Ash Wednesday, "Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel", perhaps during the past year, because of our lack of faith, because of our lack of willingness to follow Jesus, we have fallen into sin. We have fallen because temptation overwhelmed God's gift of grace to us. We were not people who lived our faith in Jesus. 

Now we come to the Gospel. Luke tells about Jesus Himself, that after fasting in the desert for 40 days, He is hungry. And physically, He is weak, and that affects the mind. And it is not easy to overcome temptations in those situations. And yet Jesus does. He reminds the devil that God can do all things, and that it is only by the power of God that we are able to overcome temptation, as Jesus Himself has shown us. Don't tempt God. Believe in His Son. Realize all that the Son is doing for us. 

When we talk about the season of Lent, it is a time of 40 days of deepening our thanksgiving to God. Lent is a time of opening our hearts and re-examining our conscience. Where have I not lived the Gospel of Jesus? Where have I fallen into sin, because I have not followed Jesus? Where have I denied my relationship with Jesus, who said that I should love my neighbor as myself, love my neighbor as Jesus loves me? Where have I failed in this? I suppose we could say in another way - where did we fail to grow in holiness, to grow in the likeness of Christ?

Remember last Ash Wednesday, we received the sign of the cross - the ashes on our forehead. We heard the words, "Turn away from sin and believe." Live the Gospel of Jesus. Or perhaps we heard, "You are dust, and unto dust you shall return", but remain un-resurrected, because we enter into the darkness of that eternal hell, where there is no love. Why? Because we have chosen not to be a person of faith. We have given in to temptation. And we have wandered away from the Father, who has sent His Son to be our Redeemer. 

This time of Lent gives us 40 days to look inside ourselves. What is keeping me from living my Catholic faith? What is keeping me from opening myself to the Gospel of Jesus and strive to grow in holiness? What is keeping me from growing in the likeness of Jesus?

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that there are moments when we have an attachment to sin, and we wish not to let go. And therefore, we allow temptation to celebrate victory over us. Rather than by prayer, by penance, and by consideration of the needs of others, we block out these channels of God's grace that strengthen us in these moments, these experiences, these situations of temptation. 

Lent is 40 days for us to say, "Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for Your passion and death. Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for the gift of faith given in baptism. And thank You for all the wonderful graces You give to us." Lent is a time of strengthening our commitment to Jesus. 

And how is it done? Prayer. Allow the Scriptures - the New Testament - to be more read in your daily life. Allow your own self to do penance and make sacrifices, so that you will be able to control your will. So that you say no to sin, and yes to God. And the third - open up your ears, and hear the cry of those in need. Sacrifice and offerings I ask none of you. But I ask that you hear the sound of the voice of the poor, the needy, those who have no one to love them. These three avenues of God's grace are our strength to overcome temptation. Prayer, penance, and good works on behalf of others. 

We have begun the journey on Ash Wednesday. Let each day of Lent be that special day for you, conscious of the love of Jesus, the forgiveness of Jesus, and the call of Jesus. "Come, follow Me." And then at the end of Lent, when we celebrate the feast of the Resurrection, we can look back on these days and say quite honestly to Jesus on the day of the Resurrection, "Lord, I have tried to grow in my love of You. I have tried to grow so that I become more like You. Lord, I have sincerely tried to grow in holiness."

With God, we can do anything. We can overcome temptation, renounce the temptations of the devil, and remain faithful to the Son who came into the world to save us from sin, and bring us to the Kingdom of the Father. During Lent, each one of us, we ask the Lord's grace. "Father in heaven, give us the strength always to walk with Jesus."