Gospel Reflection Feb 26 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, February 26
First Sunday of Lent
Matthew 4: 1-11
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
It would be impossible for me to write a reflection and not urge us to continue to pray for the people of Turkey and Syria, the people in and around East Palestine and all those impacted by the senseless killings at Michigan State. I invite you to stop now for a minute of silent prayer to send the power of God’s love, mercy and compassion to all of them.
Lent most often brings a great deal of talk about sin and many calls to “repent.” When we hear the word “repent” we often go immediately to sin. From there we consider what individual acts have I committed that I need to confess and make up for by doing penance. As important as that might be, it is such a narrow understanding of sin, lent and God.
Bishop Barron used the metaphor of two souls living within us: a “little or tiny soul” and a “great soul.” When our focus is on individual acts (sins) we commit, we decide what we will do to make up for these. We think ‘if I do this and this and this, go to confession, do penance then God will reward me or then God will forgive me because I have earned it. I have made up for my sins.’ This is acting out of our “tiny soul”. Why? Because the focus is on self. It is all about what I can or will do to earn God’s forgiveness.
When I live out of the “great soul” I respond with compassion, mercy, love and forgiveness towards others. When my desire is to open my heart and arms to embrace a world by being kind, by working for justice, peace and equity for all people then I am putting the focus on others. I am not relying on self but rather believing we are already forgiven and from the power of that great act of love I respond to the power of God’s grace that is always within me by loving others. There is no “earning” God’s forgiveness — only accepting this astonishing act of love.
The true meaning of “repent” is not to be sorry for your individual sins, as important as that is. It comes from the Greek – metanoia meaning to “turn around” “refocus” or “change our heart.”
In Kim VanHuffel’s Gospel Reflection last week, she offered us a suggestion for Lent. “Allow the peace of Christ to invade our lives and go the extra mile in service to others.” I found Kim’s use of the word “invade” intriguing. Invade connotes breaking through defenses, knocking down barriers. We set up so many defenses around our heart and build barriers “to protect ourselves” but they only serve to box us in and make our world very small. By letting God invade our lives we invite God to begin work of conversion of heart and mind and as Pope Francis says, “enlarge the space of our tent.” In today’s gospel we have another word that intrigues me. “The Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted.” Yet, every time we pray the Our Father, don’t we pray that we will not be “led” into temptation? However, today we hear that the Spirit led Jesus into temptation. What’s that about? Temptation is all around us, we are bombarded by it so I have stopped saying “lead me not into temptation” and instead use Pope Francis’ suggestion by change it to “do not let me fall into temptation.” I need God’s grace and courage not to fall into temptation. In today’s Gospel Jesus is led into temptation and as for us, it is all around him but he does not fall into it.
Jesus having just been baptized, goes into the desert to prepare for his mission. His message will be different from John the Baptist’s “repent message”. Jesus will be about the conversion of hearts because he knows that unless our hearts change we will always lose focus. At the end of his forty days and nights, the gospel tells us he was hungry. Hungry to go out, to spread his message of love, to invite people, by using the power of love, to turn their lives around, to turn their focus back to God and from that God-center discover and act out of their “great soul.” I pray that at the end of Lent we will all be hungry to spread the Gospel of Love.
“Enlarge the space of your tent,” let God invade your life so that you might see, hear, love and speak like Jesus. You might want to end this reflection by going to youtube and listen to the song Open My Eyes Lord.
-Sister Teresa Tuite, OP