The Beginning of Lent

Our text today is Luke 4:1-13: Last Wednesday evening, Christians around the world celebrated the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of Christians for Easter through prayer, reflection, fasting, repentance of sins and abstinence. Traditionally, during Lent, Christians give up something they enjoy such as eating fast food, alcohol, smoking, sugar, coffee, soft drinks, chocolates and so forth for the next 40 days until Easter.

Lent is the beginning of a new church season when we take stock of where we are in our biblical reflections. We have been led from the baptism of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John’s Gospel (where Jesus turns water into wine), back to Luke’s Gospel for Jesus’ inaugural sermon in his hometown synagogue when the locals tried to throw him over a cliff, to the calling of the first disciples and finally, to the Transfiguration, which occurs in chapter 9 in Luke’s Gospel. Luke has been preparing us for what Jesus is going to teach, by making sure we have a clear sense of who he is.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, the first Sunday in a journey towards the Cross. Our journey does not end at the Cross; our journey begins from the empty tomb.

This past Wednesday, many of us received a mark of ash on our forehead, a mark that can mean many different things to many people. To me, it means that life may not always be easy, but every day, I trust God and know that I am never alone, that God walks with me every step of the way. Lent is a challenging period, but if we are open to the Spirit’s movement in our lives and if we are open to listening to God, we might be surprised.

Lent feels like a very different kind of season from Epiphany, one that begins on a sombre note, in the desolate wilderness, with a story that reminds us of traditional Lenten practices like fasting, giving things up, and spending time deep in prayer. The season of Lent is one more opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of who Jesus is, although, we are told quite clearly on the first Sunday of Epiphany by the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism that he is the beloved Son of God.

Today’s text is more about the way Jesus is going to go about his ministry. The Son of God is not here to grab power for himself or to work magic for the masses.

The question many of us ask quite often is, ‘who is the devil Jesus encounters in the wilderness?’ The picture that comes to my mind is the one we see in films. However, this was not what Luke imagined. Many writers have suggested that the tests come from deep inside Jesus himself.

Talking of wilderness, we should not only think about the wilderness in which Jesus was tested but the wilderness we walk through in our lives at one time or another. The temptations of life are all around us, but God makes each one of us a promise: God promises to sit with us, walk with us, even carry us when life seems too hard and we don’t think we can go on. God promises never to leave us.

When we walk through the wilderness of life, remember that we are not alone to face the troubles and fears, heartbreaks and temptations of our world on our own. God’s love, presence and faith in us is real. When we make the choice to trust God, our lives can be lived with the confidence that God is always with us, even to the end.

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