14 February – 1st Sunday of Lent
Moses said to the people: ‘The priest shall take the pannier from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Lord your God. Then, in the sight of the Lord your God, you must make this pronouncement:
‘ “My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers; but there he became a nation, great, mighty, and strong. The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders. He brought us here and gave us this land, a land where milk and honey flow. Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, the Lord, have given me.”
‘You must then lay them before the Lord your God, and bow down in the sight of the Lord your God.’
Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart. If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’
Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:
You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’
Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says:
He will put his angels in charge of you
to guard you,
They will hold you up on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.
Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength
As I reflected upon the words of today’s readings, the first and greatest of all commandments hit me like a beautiful bolt of spiritual lightning. In a week of ups and downs, of desolations and consolations, I found myself realizing how the Lord had quietly been beside me through it all, training me for the kingdom while helping me in this life. Several of the homilies from the masses I attended over the week were about taking the time to become more aware of the holy presence God in our lives. And, it is only with this awareness that I was able to see His guiding and protective hand giving me victory over the challenges and trials I encountered and the miracles the Lord does for those who put Him first in their lives.
I was giving a talk to the secondary one students of my alma mater yesterday in the hope of passing on the values and traditions of the school I grew up in back in the early 1980s. And as I searched for material, what struck me was the first line of the school pledge, which spoke of loyalty to God, nation, family and school, in that right order. For if we put anything or anyone other than God first in our lives, we would eventually end up veering far from God’s plan for us, no matter how well intended we may have first begun. And, the same thread of putting God first and foremost in our lives echoes in today’s scripture readings. To me, this is the secret to living the most joyful and peace-filled of lives. It liberates us from all the lesser loves and lesser goods that would otherwise cause fear, anxiety and all the terrible ills that come with putting the created before the creator.
In his thirst, hunger and untold discomfort, the famished Christ put the love and will of His Father above himself. He would not forsake His Father despite the personal cost to him, just so that his mission of salvation remained pure and holy. And so, we too should put God first in our lives so that we can realize our full potential in God’s plan for us. We can do this by offering to him the first and finest fruits of our labour so that we can experience His perfect and infinite generosity. Put him first in all our decisions, so that we may not live on bread alone, but on something far better: His word.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Gerard Nah)
Prayer: Father God, help us we pray to become more aware of your presence in our lives especially when fears and temptations threaten to rob us of this awareness.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for the grace to put you first in our lives and for the examples of all the great saints who put you first.