11 March 2011

'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.' 1st Sunday of Lent Year A, 13 March 2011


Gospel Matthew 4:1-11
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,

but on every word that comes forth

from the mouth of God

Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you

and with their hands they will support you,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship

and him alone shall you serve.

Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.


This gospel has been used for hundreds of years on the First Sunday in Lent. St Matthew’s version is still used in the extraordinary form of the Mass (the ‘old Mass’ or ‘Tridentine Mass). In the ordinary form that we have been using for more than 40 years this gospel is used in Year A, while St Luke’s version is read in Year B and that of St Luke in Year C.

I remember vividly a homily on this gospel when I was in the seminary, around 1965. The preacher was a saintly Columban, Fr Edward McCormack, known to us as ‘Father Ted’, though he was a far cry from the Father Ted in the British comedy TV series about a group of priests in a remote part of Ireland. It wasn’t so much the preacher’s words as the sense of the horror he conveyed of the very idea of Satan trying to tempt Jesus Christ, God who became Man that struck me and that still remains. Father Ted conveyed to me a sense of the horror of what sin is.

Lent is a time in which we can receive the grace of knowing something of the horror of sin and of the price that our loving God paid in order to save us from being lost in it. Lent is a time when the whole Church prepares to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter. We can’t do that without going through Good Friday and all that led to that.

An essential part of going through Lent, and one that involves some pain, is accepting responsibility for our personal sins and asking God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of confession or reconciliation. This is an expression of God’s love for us as sinners, a sacrament in which Jesus gives us the grace to resist the temptations of Satan as he did in the gospel.


Pillars of Stewardship
Meditation for the First Sunday of Lent by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, from the website of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan

March 13, 2011

The Lenten season invites us to return to the desert and there wrestle with our number one enemy—ourselves. Today the Lord shows us how he himself went into wilderness, wrestled with the devil and stood firm in the path of goodness. The desert reminds us of our defenselessness. The desert reminds us our vulnerabilities. The desert reminds us of the dark secrets we are afraid to confront. The desert confronts us with our naked sins. In the desert, we can hold on to nothing and boast of nothing. In the desert we choose to let go of everything if only to survive. 

The desert is not a garden like Eden. In that garden of abundance, we forgot that we were only caretakers not owners. We must go to the desert of isolation and discover God again. The desert is barren. The desert is hard life. Stripped and distanced, we start to understand the things that matter most. The desert is our powerlessness. 

When I am powerless, I am strong. When you recognize your powerlessness, you have made the first step to stewardship. You have begun to recognize that you have nothing. You see things within the perspective of a steward not an owner. All that you have is from God.

The desert experience teaches us the three pillars of the spirituality of stewardship.
The nothingness of the desert leads us to the spirit of contentment. You want to be happy? Keep your desires simple and your needs few. Another teacher about contentment, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, said “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness and have few desires.”
If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast. The grace of contentment is one of God’s best gifts (Isaac Bickerstaffe). 

St Paul wrote Timothy “We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us then be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps” (I Tim 6:7-9). We can do all things in Him who strengthens us (cfr. Phil 4:13).

If you can be happy with nothing, you have found real happiness. 

Your happy disposition must lead you to the second pillar of stewardship which is generosity. The greatest measure of love is to love without measure. It is not enough to give. We must give fearlessly and cheerfully. The real measure of generosity is not how much we give but how much we keep for ourselves. The generous one is not the one who gives the most but the one who keeps the least. We believe that God cannot be outdone in generosity. We are generous because God has been unreasonably generous with us. God will always provide. His blessings will never run dry.

The third pillar of stewardship is humility. St Bernard said humility is the mother of salvation. We fell from the grace of God because of pride. We will be saved by cheerful giving, by humble sharing. Perhaps the best way to define humility is to echo the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: Humility means seeing ourselves the way God sees us. Humility is truth and pride is nothing but lying. 

“The test of real greatness is humility. The humble man knows that the greatness is not in them but through them. They see something divine in others and are endlessly, foolishly and incredibly merciful”, said John Ruskin. 

The real steward is always happy. The real steward gives from his contentment. The real steward knows that He is not the savior; he is not the owner; he is not the almighty one—God is. I am only a steward.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, March 13, 2011

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan


The Single-Heartedness, Faithfulness and Loyalty of God's Son

Biblical Reflection for 1st Sunday of Lent, Year A

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, MARCH 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Today's Scripture readings for the first Sunday of Lent immerse us into the depths of this penitential season. The readings and today's Psalm 51 sound overtures of the great themes that we will hear and live over the next six weeks. 

Reflecting on today's first reading from Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7), we must take into consideration the literary and theological form of the first pages of the Bible. Like many stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the Eden tale is an etiology -- a story that helps to explain important questions about the major realities of our life. Why is there pain in childbirth? Why is the ground hard to till? Why do snakes crawl upon the earth, etc?

Genesis 2-3 suggests that knowledge, a necessity for human life, is something that is acquired painfully. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is certainly not the mark of adult maturity. When human beings finally understand what it means to be fully human, when they have complete knowledge, then the realities of life come into full relief in all of their complexity and difficulty. Knowledge is both enlightening and painful.

Full text here.

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