14 February 2016: First Sunday of Lent

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Dt 26:4-10 Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15 Rom 10:8-13 Lk 4:1-13


Lent: whom do we worship?

During Lent the believing community walks with Jesus during the final period of his ministry. We follow Jesus as he is tested, transfigured, tells parables, forgives, and arrives in Jerusalem. For RCIA participants, the season of Lent is a time of special rites and prayers as they prepare to receive their sacraments at the Easter Vigil. The Lectionary asks RCIA participants and the believing community to reject the temptations that might subvert our discipleship.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses describes how the Hebrews are to offer firstfruits. Firstfruits was a spring harvest celebration that included offering a small portion of the first harvested grain or fruit to God. The Lectionary editors chose this passage to comment on the gospel (Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness)–both readings use the Greek word προσκυνέω (pros-koo-NEH-oh): “worship.”

In the second reading from Romans, Paul explains that salvation (“righteousness”) can come only through faith. Paul quotes the essential Christian kerygma of Jesus’ death and resurrection: If you profess that Jesus is Lord and you believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Acknowledging Jesus’ lordship and believing in God’s saving acts lead us to salvation; our witness to Jesus and our faith in God lead us to keep God’s laws and do good works.

In the gospel we hear that Jesus, immediately after his baptism, is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days: The wilderness (literally “the lonesome place”) is traditionally a place of testing (for example, the Hebrews’ desert trials and testing in Exodus). In the wilderness, the devil tests Jesus’ identity by offering him alternate ways to be the messiah:

  • Tell this stone to be bread: This temptation is about how Jesus would use his power–that is, to benefit himself. Instead, Jesus’ ministry is focused on feeding others.
  • The world is yours if you worship me: This temptation is about whom Jesus would serve with his power–that is, to command the world in service to the devil. Instead, Jesus recognizes God as source of his mission, and preaches God’s word to the world.
  • Throw yourself down so angels will come: This temptation is about how Jesus would reveal his messiahship–that is, through very public acts of power that had no benefit to people. Instead, Jesus reveals himself through acts of power that heal, feed or teach.

Having failed to subvert Jesus’ mission, the devil leaves Jesus “for a time.” In Luke, this “special time” is the period of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing. The devil returns in Lk 22.

These Lenten readings ask RCIA participants–and all of us–very simply: whom do we serve? Moses tells us to “set our offering before God, and worship before the Lord.” Paul reminds us that “everyone who calls on (worships) the Lord’s name will be saved.” Jesus dismisses the devil with “God alone is worthy of worship.” Every day and everywhere we are tempted to power, self-service, and self-importance. Whom do we serve?

—Terence Sherlock

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