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Reflection on the First Sunday of Lent

Posted on March 6, 2022, by Mary Swain SL

Luke 4:1-13

Today’s Gospel begins where the Gospel from several weeks ago ended.  Back in January we celebrated the feast of Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit had descended upon him, looking like a dove.  A voice from heaven had said, “You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

Having experienced such a defining moment as the baptism, having realized in some way what God might be asking of him, it is no wonder Jesus wanted some time alone to ponder all these things in prayer with God.  Jesus certainly was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  It seems natural that he was led into the desert.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus in the desert — “led by the Spirit,” Luke tells us, “to be tempted by the devil.” The symbols are here: Jesus, 40 days in the desert, as the people of Israel had been 40y years in the desert; Jesus, the new Israel, standing firm against temptation. 

Jesus has such clarity of thought in responding to the devil’s challenges with just the right answer.  We want to cheer.  Yeah, Jesus!  You got him on that one!  Jesus rejects each of the devil’s alternatives as though with the bible in his hand.

Was he tempted to the power and glory that might come with being a mighty ruler, or with drawing attention to himself by spectacular acts like turning stones into bread or jumping off a well-known corner of the temple and surviving? Maybe so. Or maybe his temptations were more subtle, maybe like some that we know: using his knowledge and intuition to get the best of someone else, or letting himself be discouraged because things were not going as he had planned, or wondering if he really was the beloved of God, the one in whom God is well-pleased?

Jesus’ focus was clear. His focus was on God. He did not draw attention to himself. His responses to the devil are clear: “Not on bread alone,” “God alone shall you serve,” “Don’t put God to the test.” Jesus’ focus is God.

What is also clear is that God’s focus is the people; God’s focus is all of us. In the Deuteronomy reading this morning God heard the people’s cry when they were oppressed and freed them. The traditional Lenten Psalm 91 calls God our refuge, the one in whom we trust, the one who answers our call. God’s nature is the salvation of humankind, someone has said.  God’s nature is for us.  Long ago Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” 

What is our task these next six weeks of Lent? As disciples of Jesus, we want our focus to be clear; we want our focus to be God. We also want to watch Jesus in his public ministry where he does what God would do: cares for people with kindness and compassion and tells them of this God of his whose focus is on them, whose nature is their well-being.

We move with a sense of thanksgiving into Eucharist, conscious of the people of Ukraine, conscious, too, of the Russian people. Let us enter into this Lent asking to be open to God’s love and mercy that comes to us in the circumstances of our lives with one another.          


Mary Swain SL

Mary Swain SL has been a consultant to the National Religious Retirement Office and has served on the board for the National Association for Treasurers of Religious Institutes. Along with her math background and service to the Loretto Community in the financial area, she has experience as a church organist and plans and prepares materials for Loretto liturgies at Loretto Motherhouse and for special occasions. Mary resides at Loretto Motherhouse, the grounds of which receive her careful tending and loving touch.