Father Donald Senior, CP

March 6: First Sunday of Lent

Wednesday, March 2, 2022


Dt 26:4-10; Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13

When we Catholics hear the word “Lent,” we may think of fasting, perhaps of meatless Fridays, or resolutions to give up something we enjoy (candy, beer, movies, etc.). In fact, the word “lent” means “springtime,” derived from the Germanic root word to “shine” — referring to the increasing daylight that marks the transition from winter to spring.

Thinking of the season of Lent as a spiritual springtime fits its basic meaning in our liturgical calendar. Lent prepares us for Holy Week’s Triduum, the climactic celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus marked by Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

Lent understood this way is like a time of anticipation — looking forward to a special vacation trip, or to a joyful anniversary or to a wedding day. It is a time of preparation and anticipated joy when an ordinary day takes on new meaning and quiet excitement as we think of what is ahead.

The readings for this first Sunday of Lent reflect this spirit. The first reading from Deuteronomy is set during Israel’s desert sojourn as Moses leads the people to their promised land. It affirms in poetic fashion the deepest conviction of the Bible, that, out of love, God delivers his people from death and gives them freedom.

In this scene, the father of the family is instructed to take a basket of their hard-earned produce and give it to the priest to place on the altar as an offering. As the father does so, he is to recite a prayer of thanksgiving that recalls God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, “My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. … When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us ... we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry.”

Standing on the brink of liberation, the people thank God for bringing them into a “land flowing with milk and honey,” a land of freedom and safety.

The responsorial Psalm 91 prays in a similar spirit. Amid turmoil, the psalmist prays for protection and deliverance: “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble. … My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” The psalmist is confident that God will send his angels to protect him, “No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent. For to his angels he has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways.”

In the second reading, Paul encourages the Christians in Rome never to lose heart: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Traditionally, the Gospel selection for the first Sunday in Lent is the account of Satan’s test of Jesus at the very beginning of his public mission. The melody is the same as the other readings for today. 

The raw power of evil may try to wound Jesus and lead him astray, but Jesus rejects Satan’s assault, affirming each time his loving obedience to his Father: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

The Gospel passage concludes with some ominous words, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” We know the whole story. The power of evil will return to attack Jesus at the moment of his Passion, but Jesus will prevail and, because of God’s love, life will prove stronger than death.

We enter this Lenten season — this springtime — at an unusual moment in our history. We might be emerging from the worst of the pandemic, but the scars and the anxiety linger. Our world is threatened again by war and endless conflict. 

It is surely a time to reach deep into the wellsprings of our faith. The God revealed by Jesus is the God who loves us and will not abandon us, the God who liberates us from the threat of evil and will bring us home to a place of ultimate freedom. That is the springtime message of Lent.


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