My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So we begin this season of Lent, this time of Lent. And once again, we all are called to deepen our sense of the mystery of our lives in Christ.
Lent, as we know and is so obvious to all of us, is a time to go deeper in our personal conversion. As I was saying, a time of penance, purification, and conversion. Of change.
In these 40 days of Lent, we remember those 40 days that Jesus prayed and fasted and was tested in the desert following his baptism.
It’s interesting how always on this first Sunday of Lent we” relive” his temptation in the desert, and we recognize that this temptation shows us the pattern for our lives.
We are baptized, as Jesus was baptized. And as he is sent out into the desert, we are sent out into the desert of this world, the desert of our daily lives.
Baptism is just the beginning of the journey of our Christian life.
When we are baptized, we confess that Jesus is Lord. We confess that God raised him from the dead. Just as St. Paul says in the second reading that we just heard today.
My dear brothers and sisters, this confession of faith that we make, as we know — it is not just words that we are saying with our mouths. And it’s good to reflect on it — it’s simple, but beautiful.
“Jesus is Lord” means that he is the Lord of our lives, the one who saves us. It means that we know in our hearts that he died for us, that he gave his whole life for us.
But it also means that we are called to give our whole life for him. And this is who we are. This is the beautiful reality of our lives. We are God’s children, his people.
It’s good reflect on how beautiful it is that our baptism is just the beginning of our whole life, and how our whole life should manifest that we really believe that Jesus is Lord.
In the first reading today, we hear how God loves his people, and how he saves them from their affliction, bringing them to that land flowing with milk and honey.
This what God has done for us too! He has saved us and put us on the path to heaven.
God calls us to respond to his love with sacrifice, with offerings of gratitude and thanksgiving.
And that’s our challenge, isn’t it? We understand that God loves each one of us personally — how much God has done for each one of us. And then it makes sense that we try to correspond to that. But that’s our daily struggle.
We all know the way that God wants us to live, the way that Jesus told us to live. But somehow, we are always being pulled in the other direction, away from God. We are always tempted to try to live without him. To live the way we want to live, not the way God wants us to live.
And Jesus knows that, he has experienced our temptations.
Again, in the passage of the Gospel, it is so beautiful to see the humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Out of love for us, he humbles himself and allows himself be tempted and tested. Just as we are.
Jesus undergoes temptation to give us hope — to show us that we can overcome our weakness, that we can overcome the temptations in our lives.2
In the Gospel, the devil begins his temptations by trying to make Jesus doubt his own identity. The devil challenges him: “If you are the Son of God …”
My brothers and sisters, every temptation we face is rooted in this same challenge.
As we are reflecting today, in baptism we are made sons and daughters of God. But we are always tempted to doubt that, to doubt our relationship with God.
Every temptation we face comes down to this — it is the temptation to doubt that God really loves us as a Father, to doubt that he really cares for each one of us personally as his children.
So that’s the first temptation. Today, we especially ask for the grace to always have the certainty, the commitment, to understand that we are God’s sons and daughters.
Then, just as Jesus was tempted, we, in our weakness, we can be tempted to trust in “bread,” to think material things alone can satisfy us and make us happy.
Then, we can also be tempted to trust in our own “powers” — to think we can provide for our own needs, rely on our own strength, our own inventions, in our own way of doing things.
And then also, as Jesus was tempted, we can be tempted to “put God to the test.” To seek some kind of “sign” that will “prove” his love for each one of us.
So the same temptations that Jesus had can happen to us. As a matter of fact, those things happen to us all the time.
Those are the temptations that Jesus experienced in desert and these are the temptations we experience in our own lives.
But today Jesus is showing us the way to overcome our temptations. He is showing us how to really live as a child of God, how to live out our baptismal vocation.
It’s interesting that Jesus did not overcome the devil by his own divine powers. He answered the devil’s temptations with prayer and fasting and the words of Sacred Scripture.
He did that to set an example for us. As Jesus showed us, we need to meet the temptations in our lives with prayer and with self-denial. And we need to trust in God’s Word and his promises for our life.
That way, following Jesus — following his path — we can overcome every temptation and we can know the love and happiness that God wants for us.
And this is the way that we should live this special time in the liturgy of the Church — the time of Lent. So we set out on this Lenten journey asking for the grace to trust in God’s Word above all temptations and distractions that we face in our own lives.
This past Ash Wednesday, as we received the ashes, we were reminded that Lent is about prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Prayer, sacrifice and service — let’s ask for the grace to really find the way, in a new way, to be active in increasing our prayer, in finding the way to offer small sacrifices, and serving other people.
This is how Jesus lived, and this is how he asked us to live — so let us try to make it real during this Lenten Season. And really it will be a new beginning in our Christian journey.
So let’s ask Mary our Blessed Mother to help us to make this Lent a beautiful time — a beautiful time for us to continue our conversion that we can follow Jesus more closely.
1. Readings: Deut. 26:4-10; Ps. 91:1-12, 10-15; Rom. 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13.
2. Heb. 2:17–18; 4:18.