We do not live on bread alone LUKE 4:1–13
As Catholics, we begin the practices and observances of the season of Lent so that with heart and spirit renewed, we may celebrate that faith in a bond that can only be expressed as Covenant.
This Covenant as expressed in today’s first reading is the Holy relationship, given by God, to his people Israel on Mt Sinai (Deut 26:4–10) To this day, the Jews celebrate this as a feast called Shavuot or the Feasts of Weeks.
In this feast, the Jews recall the formative days their ancestors had recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. They are called, as we read in this weekend’s first reading, “to bring the first fruits and present it to the priest who shall set it in front of the altar” in doing so the Jews recall in thanksgiving, the wonders the Lord had worked for them.
Throughout the journey from slavery to the reaching and settling in the Promised Land, the Israelites learnt that the Lord was always with them. They also learnt utter dependence on the Lord who provided for them when they could not have done so.
This feast reminds every Jew that the Lord hears the cry of those who suffer and are overburdened, and the Lord acts to bring freedom and salvation. Thus, one can describe this Covenant as an ongoing process of reflecting on God’s active presence in their lives, and a response that emerges from the heart in thanksgiving.
Also, it is a reminder that they are utterly dependent on the Lord who alone brings salvation for His people. It further recalls their formation as this special people of God and holds them to express their thanksgiving in their relationship with the Lord and with all peoples.
As Catholics, we too are called into a Covenant relationship with the Lord. Lent is that time in which we remember as St Paul tells us in the second reading, “it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10: 11–13).
Like the Jewish people, we too are called into a sacred bond of a Covenant relationship with the Lord. The practices of Lent are purposed to help us recall our formation and identity as the People of God.
We are called to profess the same faith in the same Lord and we are called to express that faith as an ongoing expression of gratitude and love for God and all His people.
The practices of Lent remind us that we became part of the People of God through baptism. It is this baptism that we must renew by cleansing our hearts from the false belief that we can do without God.
This first Sunday of Lent presents for us Jesus who filled with the Holy Spirit, went into the desert. The desert in Scripture is the place of formation. Jesus, as a faithful Jew, returned to that place of formation. The place where His ancestors learnt through the empty, dry and desolate place, that God is always sufficient.
This place is where they suffered and struggled with the slavery within the human heart that deceives us into thinking and acting as though we are totally in charge of our lives and can do whatever we want.
It is in this dry, harsh and desolate place, we are told, that Jesus went. He fasted for 40 days and at the end was hungry. Jesus, in the midst of His hunger, is tempted to be self-sufficient and provide for Himself. This, of course, Jesus must have been able to do.
Yet His response, which comes from the book of Deuteronomy (the book of formation in Covenant), was that “man does not live on bread alone”. In a sense, we as Catholics are called to remind ourselves of this very important formative disposition throughout our lives.
Lent calls us to the practices of fasting, prayer and charitable giving. It is not a contest of who can diet the best nor, God forbid, a practice in which we can demonstrate how much we can suffer or punish ourselves.
It is first of all, a call to deepen the holy Covenant, that holy bond of relationship with the Lord who alone can truly bring us salvation. It is a call to enter into the desert of place of formation.
We as Catholics must become creative in preparing that desert experience. We are invited each year to do the work of formation. To take up the call of the Spirit to let go of all that fools us into self-reliance and in that time, to allow our hearts to be tuned in to the Lord who will always be with us.
We are invited to recall the ways in which the Lord has always provided for us and the way He will always hear our cry and act with salvation for His people. This is the other most important need of each human heart that is essential for life. It is this relationship which allows us to produce what is needed for bread.
Let us pray then as we begin this holy season of renewal.
Father, you are indeed worthy of all praise. In thanksgiving we enter into this invitation to renew the bond you desire to bring to perfection within us.
We ask that with the help of your grace, that we will learn to depend on you and for the faith to believe that you always hear the cry of your people.
We ask this through Jesus your son and our Lord,
The Gospel Meditations for March are by Fr Roger Paponette, Judicial Vicar and parish priest of San Rafael.