Posts Tagged 'Word of God'

Frailty and Temptation

During this frist week of Lent we are invited to meditate on two points: our human frailty weakened by original sin (Genesis 3), as well as to reflect on Jesus’ temptations in the desert (Matthew 4). Reflecting on these two points, Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message for 2011 states the following: “The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25).”

Recognizing our need for God’s grace implies a real struggle with the power of sin that has taken hold of our heart in manifold ways. One response that the Devil often wants to produce in us is an initial resistance to convert or change our lives. He uses fear to make us think we will loose something precious if we abandon our familiar ways of sin. However, in Christ’s temptations in the desert we are encouraged to recognize that the devil only promises distortions of what only belongs to God. In following Christ through these fourty days of penance and prayer we are strengthened in grace to turn away from sin and trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. Our frailty as human beings is not something bad in itself, since dependance on God is the way we were created to exist. However, the frailty we suffer because of the effects of original sin in our souls is a great reminder that we cannot save ourselves from sin. The latter frailty mentioned, which is caused by sin, is the clearest sign that we need to walk closely with the one who is our strength.

During this first week of the Lenten season, let’s renew our resolution to pray and fast with Christ, so that we too may overcome temptation and sinful frailty. St. Paul reminds us that “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

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Jesus’ Baptism and the Desert

How are baptism and Lent connected? There is a saying in Spanish that can be translated to read something like this “tell me who you’re with and I will tell you who you are.” This saying will help us understand the connection between Jesus’ Baptism and his time of temptation in the desert, since both have to do with who he is. In all three synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) we read that before Jesus begins his ministry he first goes to get baptized by John. After his baptism, he then goes into the desert where he is tempted by the devil. How are Jesus’ baptism and his time in the desert related? The connection between the two can be found in what happens at the end of the baptism.

In Mark 1:11 we hear a voice calling out from heaven, which says: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Likewise, in Matthew 3:17 we read that there was a voice from heaven which said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father asserts his love for his beloved son and this assertion gives meaning to everything Jesus does. Jesus is the Father’s delight and his identity is wrapped around his relationship with his Father. The scriptures tell us that the spirit lead Jesus into the desert, not despite his mission but as the very beginning of his mission. He is sent into the desert to encounter the temptations that rule men’s hearts (hunger, power and safety), but he confronts these temptations with the trust that he is loved by the Father. The period of temptation and trial is anticipated by one of grace and affirmation in the baptismal experience.

As Christians we walk the Lenten journey following Christ into the desert, but often we forget how this journey begins. It does not begin with promises of grand penances or change, it begins by asserting how much we need the Lord and the Lord asserting how much he wants to be with us. This synergy of God and man culminates in the Easter Mystery, from which we draw our ultimate hope to die with Christ so we can rise with him. In Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message of 2011 he offered the following words on what happened at the moment of our baptism: “we “become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection”, and there began for us “the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples”.

Like Jesus, let us recall the affirmation we received at the moment of our baptism, in which the Lord asserted in us the following words: “In Jesus, my son, you have become my beloved child and I will lead you into the desert of penance so that you may remember who you are meant to be.” Lent is a time of renewal to seek out our life mission based on this baptismal identity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

Silence

In the Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, he speaks about the importance of silence in relation to the word of God, “In their interventions, a good number of Synod Fathers insisted on the importance of silence in relation to the word of God and its reception in the lives of the faithful.[231] The word, in fact, can only be spoken and heard in silence, outward and inward. Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the People of God be educated in the value of silence. Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence.[232] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence. Our liturgies must facilitate this attitude of authentic listening: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt.[233]”

The priesthood and consecrated life embrace the Word of God and give it particular attention through the Liturgy of Hours and through forms of meditation and contemplation, such as Lectio Divina. May you find the Person of Christ, the Word made Flesh, more fully through your prayer with Sacred Scripture!



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