Do people see in Christians people who proclaim comfort in Jesus? Or, is it the case that we are all too often perceived as harsh, mean, uncaring? And yet, is not the point of a relationship with Jesus that we will know we are always loved when Jesus is close? Our lives are not spared from sorrow, but in Christ we never have to deal with them alone.
“There was no duplicity in him.” What a tremendously wonderful compliment. It seems that if there is a quality that is needed today, it is that we have no duplicity. What would our world be like if we knew we could trust each other because we were genuine and sincere? What would our conversations be like if we did not take the opportunity to insult those with whom we disagreed, or did not share something unless we knew it to be true? What if, heaven forbid, we even realized that we could disagree with someone, but treat them with respect? We will need to summon courage to be sincere. But if we are always a disciple of Jesus, we make it more likely others will believe too.
I played a dangerous game in high school. I compared my individual talents to others, and I found myself lacking. That is because for each individual talent I had, there was always another person who was better. Rather than being able to see the many blessings God gave me, I focused on what I did not have. In today’s first reading, the apostle Paul shows how being baptized helps each of us to see the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In the midst of our own worries and anxieties, do we trust God to care for us and to love us? Do we cherish that relationship with Him?
It is called the most complete prayer ever. The Our Father is one we pray often. But how often do with really think about the words we are saying. Do we pray the Our Father thinking only of ourselves? Do we pray for God’s will to be done when we hold back from doing God’s will? Do we seek forgiveness without forgiving? Today we are given the time to really consider the prayer and what we are saying.
There is an interesting phrase in today’s gospel about the temptation of Jesus. Namely, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Why? Why would the Spirit lead the Son into the desert? While the easy answer is that there must be a good reason if it is something the Spirit does, it still leaves a big question. Fortunately, Saint Thomas Aquinas answers it. He indicates four reasons it was fitting for Jesus to be tempted, and they are all for our benefit.
Isaiah, often the mouthpiece for God, was a man of innovation. He challenged people to think in a new way about an old covenant. Today he takes the concept of fasting, and builds on the connection between fasting for God, and the attention service God’s people demands. Jesus is asked about why his disciples do not fast. He essentially says there is a right time for everything. Knowing how to respond to God by reading the signs of the times and the signs of our faith, now is the time to fast.
Moses sets before the people today a blessing and a curse. It is hard to imagine that anyone would really choose a curse, but every time we sin we do. Why? How is it we can turn our back on God’s gift of life and choose the curse? Well, choosing life has consequences. Standing up for what is right and true can be hard, we can be persecuted for it. For this reason Jesus tells his disciples about his death, or warns his followers about self-denial and taking up a cross. Lent is a time where we are called to remember to take up a Cross so that we choose the blessing.
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Today begins Lent. How will you rend your heart in what you give up or taken on? How will what you do for Lent open your hearts more fully to loving God and loving neighbor.