Preparing for the Word
Before you begin take a moment to pray, saying this short prayer by St. John Chrysostom or a prayer in your own words asking the Lord to open up your heart and mind to his Word.
O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will.
Reading the Word Lectio or reading is the first step of lectio divina. You are invited to begin by slowly and attentively reading aloud the gospel of the day by yourself or others
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.
For all of the readings for the First Sunday of Lent are on the USCCB website.
Reflecting on the Word
In our gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Jesus, who was baptized in the Jordan and named by the Father as “my beloved Son”, is led by the Spirit into the desert where he subjected to a three-fold temptation. His temptations correspond to those of the Israelites, the chosen sons and daughters of God in the wilderness of Sinai. In the desert they faced three temptations:
1.) Doubting God’s loving care for them and demanding that God feed them;
2.) Doubting that God’s goodness and faithful love can be relied upon and devising a god of their own making in his (seeming) absence;
3.) Despairing of ever entering the Promised Land and being tempted to rely on their own efforts and the powers of this world instead of on God.
While fasting and praying in the desert, Jesus, like Israel, is tempted to doubt God’s goodness and love for him and to reject God’s will for him.
The First Temptation
In the first temptation, the Evil One demands that Jesus prove he is God’s beloved Son by turning stones into bread. What is the temptation? To act on his own to satisfy his hunger, rather than to continue to trust that God will provide him with what he needs.
Jesus overcomes the temptation by this declaration of faith in God’s care for him: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In other words, Jesus is saying that God's word is a word of life, regardless of what that word happens to be at any particular moment in our lives. We may make bread through our own hard work, effort and will. But our own efforts and will, as important as they are, are not ultimately the source of our life.
The Second Temptation
Satan resumes his attack by challenging Jesus to prove that he is really the Son of God by throwing himself down from the temple. It isn't enough that at his baptism the Father proclaimed Jesus his beloved Son. It is a subtle temptation because it introduces an element of doubt. Can Jesus really trust that the Father loves him? Is God’s love reliable? Can the Father be trusted to be faithful.
Jesus forcefully overcame this temptation, saying, “You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test.” He continued to believe in the trustworthiness and faithful love of his Father even in the complete forsakeness of the Cross when cried out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.'
The Third Temptation
In the third and final temptation, the Prince of this world proposed this bargain:
he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would then abandon the Father and worship and serve him. Satan promised to give Jesus power in this world in exchange for allegiance to him.
Yet Jesus taught in word and action that the only power worth having is the power of kenotic, self-emptying, love. The power of love is the power of self-giving, of sacrifice, of seeking the good of the other person before your own immediate good, of discovering your truest and best self in the love of the neighbor.
The power of this world is the misused power to dominate, to make others do your will because they are afraid or frightened of what you might do to them. It is the power that compels rather than persuades, that puts my good, my needs, my desires first and makes everyone else a means of getting what I want.
Jesus overcame the temptation to choose to use others to serve his will and reject his Sonship and the way of the Cross. Instead, he trusted in the love of the Father for him, the beloved Son and embraced completely the weakness (and the power) of suffering and the Cross.
Pondering the Word
In meditatio, traditionally, the second stage of lectio divina, we are invited to ponder, as Mary did, “all these things in her heart” as we listen for Jesus, the Incarnate Word to speak to us heart-to-heart. You may find the following questions helpful in doing this.
1. How is Jesus inviting me to grow closer to him in this reading.
2. Is there anything currently in my life, in my past, in my disposition that is keeping me from growing closer to Jesus?
3. Which of the three temptations faced by Jesus do you most relate to? Why?
4. How did Jesus resist the Enemy’s temptations? What does that teach you about resisting temptation in your own life?
5. How or in what ways do I desire Jesus to heal or forgive what is wounded in me or to help me to recognize and be grateful for his love for me?
6. In what ways is Jesus calling me to follow him at this moment in my life?
Praying the Word
In the third stage of the practice of lectio divina, pondering the Word of God naturally leads to prayer. Having opened your heart to his Word, take a few moments to speak to Jesus heart-to-heart.
You may wish to conclude your time of prayer using the Collect from this Sunday’s Mass below or the Lord’s Prayer:
Grant, almighty God,
through the yearly observance of holy Lent,
that we may grow in understanding
of the riches hidden in Christ
and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.