Lent Reflection: First Sunday of Lent

Hard to believe we find ourselves now in March and the first week of Lent. The new year is unspooling, too quickly, even as the last two years have dragged, carrying on their sagging shoulders the weight of pandemic and natural disaster and war, always war. As a writer in America magazine asked last week, “When is the last time it hasn’t been Lent?”

Today’s readings offer a balm, then, if, like me, you need encouragement even as the ashes still feel fresh on your forehead. The Gospel of Luke reminds us that Jesus himself was tempted – to prove he is truly the Son of God, to seize the power and glory of all the kingdoms on Earth for himself, to turn the tables and tempt God by throwing himself from the parapet of the temple. To all this, Jesus says no.

Since our temptations and Lenten sacrifices are likely of a more modest nature – to nibble on chocolate anyway, to have just one glass, to skip the daily prayer time because we’re busy, to lose our temper with the kids because we’re tired – the devil’s taunting of Christ might be something we can’t relate to. He is the son of God, after all! And then the lesson is lost. But wait!

The devil also quotes today’s Psalm, in which we are reminded that the angels of the Lord “shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” That line has always struck me, not least because the image is both ordinary and poetic. How can it be that God, who surely has bigger things to worry about – war in Ukraine, humanitarian crises in Syria and Afghanistan, genocide in China – is also guiding my every step to save me from a fall? I am but one small, unimportant person.

And yet to God I am everything. Even where I step and– too often, I fear – fall – because of pride, anger, greed – concerns the Lord. Like a loving parent, God wants to save us from our missteps but loves us enough to allow us to make them. The Gospel does end, don’t forget, with “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” We will always face temptation, but God will ever be there – wanting, waiting – to lift us up on the hands of angels.

Julie Bourbon is a senior writer in marketing and communications and new to CCUSA. A native of the DMV, she is a news junkie, a baseball fan, a baker of king cakes and always on the lookout for new recipes and reading recommendations.