Dear friends in Jesus Christ,
While the word Lent derives from the Old English for springtime, its true roots lie in the Bible and above all in the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. The great lawgiver Moses for example spent the same period of time in the presence of God on Mount Sinai. The gospels tell us that it was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Jesus withdrew to the desert, and there he was severely tempted by Satan. This was clearly a time of preparation for his public ministry.
We might wonder why the Lord Jesus subjected himself to such a prolonged ordeal of testing and trial. The truth lies surely in the fact that he was human as well as divine. He shared fully in our humanity and had therefore to wrestle with all the obstacles and challenges which we ourselves experience.
The specific nature of his temptations as described in the accounts of Matthew and Luke were inducements to follow a different path from what he knew deep within him his heavenly Father had marked out for him. Such temptations still surround us today, and we need to learn how Jesus dealt with them.
The devil invited him to turn stones into bread, to work a quick miracle to satisfy his hunger, to take an easier path than fasting. Jesus refused. There is physical hunger, but there is also another kind of hunger, the hunger in the human heart for the things of God which endure. We must not neglect this spiritual hunger. Jesus knew that material things satisfy only for a time. As human beings we should cater for that higher hunger.
Satan then took Jesus to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem, inviting him to throw himself down and, if he were God’s Son, surely God would not allow him to come to any harm. As the saying goes, Jesus would not fly in God’s face or try to force his Father’s hand. Such was not going to be the way of his mission as Messiah; he would have to tread the path common to all humanity.
Only in his resurrection from the dead would his Father finally intervene in the most dramatic fashion. We too are being taught through these days of Lent to accept and be satisfied with the ordinary, often humdrum run of events. The Son of God is teaching us that it is not in the extraordinary things we find God and his will, but in the seemingly little things of every day.
The final temptation of the devil was that of fame and glory. Satan wanted Christ to follow his way, that of the world with all its attractions. Celebrity cult and greatness of reputation awaited him were he to yield to this temptation. Jesus again spurned Satan’s allurement and is teaching us that we must never leave God out of the picture. Pleasures and man-made idols cannot take the place of the God who created us and whom we are duty bound to worship.
Journeying in Lent with the Lord Jesus in his temptation and his fast can help us sift our priorities and so discover our true selves and where genuine and lasting happiness are to be found – in serving and worshipping God alone.
Until next week – May God bless you all on our shared Lenten Journey,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster