Branching Out Blog

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Lent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Mar 5, 2022 6:00:00 AM

First Sunday of Lent_2022_imageA reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

(Chapter 26:4-10)

This reading celebrates the deliverance of Israel from the slavery of Egypt and the 40 years wandering in the desert. Moses reminds the people that it was God who brought them out of Egypt “with his strong hand and outstretched arm” and gave them “this land flowing with milk and honey.” Moses tells them that their ancestral father, Abraham, “was a wandering Aramean” but now the people will have to wander no longer, all because God is with them. So worshipers, in thanksgiving, are to bring to the altar, as sacrifice, “the first fruits of the products of the soil.”

Now, thousands of years later, our Jewish brethren celebrate the feast of Sukkot (pronounced sue-coat), the Feast of the Harvest or the Feast of Booths, to recall the tents the people lived in while in the dessert.

Today, let us pray for our sisters and brothers in Ukraine that the Lord may deliver them from their oppressors.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 91)

“Be with me O Lord, when I am in trouble.” God is always with us, but too often we are not aware of his presence, except when we are in trouble.

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans

(Chapter 10:8-13)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This was the rallying cry of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation that challenged the Roman Catholic Church 500 years ago. The reformers said it was faith that saves a person, not good works. But that is not the whole story. In the second chapter of the Letter of Saint James, the author says, “Faith without works is dead.”

We Catholics certainly believe that we cannot save ourselves. Only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ saves us. However, faith is a gift. We need to accept it and act on it every day. That is where love and justice come in; sharing with our families and neighbors and those who are disabled, sick, poor, and forgotten. We receive the gift, and we share it.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke

(Chapter 4:1-13)

The last line of this reading is easily missed but very important. In fact, I do not think I ever focused on the last three words before writing this commentary. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him, for a time.” The devil had already put forth three powerful temptations that Jesus rejected. How did he manage to rebuke the devil? The answer is in the first five words of this reading“filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke is telling us that Jesus was fully human, and so he could be tempted not just this time but throughout his lifetime. However, he was also God, and the Spirit of God was within him. It was the Spirit that helped him endure rejection from so many of his people and his hideous crucifixion.

Jesus has given us that same Spirit that is always with us, especially in times of stress, suffering, and temptation. It is not a magical power. It is a gift that we can recognize and accept, and it is a partnership. Imagine that! You and I have a partnership with the Holy Spirit, a most intimate, lifelong, healing, forgiving partnership that allows the best in us to shine out and the darkness in us to be enlightened. In your times of darkness, whatever the source, ask your Spirit partner for the strength to go on and to overcome.


Painting: Christ in the Wilderness, Ivan Kramskoi (1837-1887)

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.

Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

 

Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, first sunday of Lent, RENEW International, Temptation of Christ

Bill Ayres

Written by Bill Ayres

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