1st Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7     Romans 5:12-19     Matthew 4:1-11

natroun 4In modern parlance the word ‘Desert’ may conjure up images of sunshine and palm trees and adventures and safaris. The reality might be very different.  In religious terms ‘the desert’ can have two meanings.  It can be seen as a land which God has not blessed; a land without water or vegetation; a barren place where evil spirits live; a place where sinners are punished for their sins.   The more common biblical view of the desert is of a place (“dreadful land” Deut 1:19), where God’s people pass through in order to enter a land flowing with milk and honey.

It was to the desert of Mount Sinai that God called Moses to reveal Himself to Moses and give him the commandments.  It was to the desert of Mount Horeb that God called Elijah and spoke to him in the gentle breeze.  Their journeys took 40 days and they did not return to the desert because God had fulfilled what was in God’s plan.

When Jesus went into the desert it was not because God wanted to reveal Himself to His only Son or to speak to him.  Jesus journeyed into the desert as part of his preparation for the mission for which he came.  In a way, God was testing Jesus but also displaying how the power of God can overcome trials and temptations.

The reminder of the desert and of trials and temptations is given to us at the beginning of our Penitential season of Lent.  Though Jesus is the Son of God and cannot sin, He shows us the dangers that lurk in our spiritual lives and how to resist very real temptations.

The first temptation in the desert suggests that we need to rely on material things, such as food and wealth.  While we thank God for all that we have been given, Jesus reminds us that we do not ‘live on bread alone’.  God’s word and God’s assurance is true and steadfast and will provide for all our needs.  “You do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” All of us have been given personal strengths and talents by God but we know that we continue to rely on the protection of God’s grace and providence.  We cannot ever feel that we have the ability to go it alone or test how God might protect us. “You must not put the Lord your God to the test” Our lives can often embrace worldly values beyond what is good or holy.  We create false gods which dim our vision of the God who is always present in our lives.  “You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone”.

‘Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert …. for forty days and forty nights’.  His experience was not a quick fix or an instant remedy.  Forty days was regarded as a period of fullness and a time fitting for what Jesus had to do.  His forty days remain the perfect time scale for any of his disciples to overcome sin and live in holiness of life.  We allow ourselves to hear again and again the call of Jesus; “Repent and Believe the Good News”.