:: Lent_1st_week

1ST SUNDAY OF LENT - 05.03.2017
(Matthew 4:1 - 11)

In the Gospel lesson for this First Sunday in Lent, we have St.Matthew's account of the temptations of Jesus. Our focus is not on the devil but on the Holy Spirit. Jesus went into the desert full of the Spirit and he came out of the desert in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness, through the wilderness and out of the wilderness. Jesus did not shrink from this desert warfare. Christ identifies with our struggles. Jesus as the perfect man and the model we should follow.

We face often a time of intensified temptation and spiritual attack
We struggle simply to survive from day to day. Physical or emotional burdens may press on us. The flesh may cry out for relief. We may aspire for prosperity and easy going. We may undergo pressure. We may experience alone and spiritually isolated. The reason for these trials, St.Paul says, is "to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Jesus to St.Faustina on warfare with the devil
Here are the secret whispers of Jesus to his little bride Faustina on how to protect herself from the attacks of the devil. These instructions became Faustina’s weapon in fighting with the evil (1760):
o Never trust in yourself but abandon yourself totally to My will.
o In desolation, darkness and various doubts, have recourse to Me.
o Do not bargain with any temptation. Lock yourself immediately in My Heart.
o Put your self-love in the last place, so that it does not taint your deeds.
o Bear with yourself with great patience.
o Do not neglect interior mortifications.
o Always justify to yourself the opinions of your superiors and of your confessor.
o Shun murmurs which is like a plague.
o You are to act as I want you to.
o Observe the rule as faithfully as you can.
o If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do that person.
o Do not pour out your feelings.
o Be silent when you are rebuked.
o Do not become discouraged by ingratitude.
o Do not examine with curiosity the roads down which I lead you.
o When boredom and discouragement beat against your heart, run away from yourself and hide in My heart.
o Do not fear struggle. Courage itself often intimidates temptations and they dare not attack us.
o Always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you.
o Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under your control.
o Always depend upon your superiors even in the smallest things.
o I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations. On the contrary, prepare for great battles.
o Know that you are on a great stage where all heaven and earth are watching you.
o Fight like a knight, so I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone.

The wilderness is all about God!
It was necessary for Jesus to go into the wilderness. It is necessary for us also. We many times end up feeling alone and exhausted in our community and ministry place. We feel like giving in and giving up. We wonder why God has abandoned "me". Nothing will make sense and all will seem confusing. But God appears in wilderness in a more special way. God never leads us into the wilderness in order to destroy us. He intends the time of testing to make us stronger. In wilderness, victory is there, holiness is there, spiritual growth is there, Holy Spirit is there and Jesus is there!

St.Paul boasts about his life in wilderness (2 Corinthians 11:16 - 33)
In St.Paul’s writings we find a greatly developed meaning of suffering. Paul understands that the suffering he endures serves as a way to be like Christ as well as it being for Christ’s sake (Philippians 3:8 - 11). For him it was to live for Christ and to die was a gain (Philippians 1:19 - 21). Suffering is a way for sanctification, keeping pride at a minimum and trust in God at a maximum (2 Corinthians 12:7 - 10).

What is that bothering us deeply and making us to feel that "I am in wilderness"
These questions plague our minds always: "Why is there suffering? Why does God allow suffering, failure, loneliness in my life? Has God abandoned me? Why do my prayers remain unanswered? Will I ever experience joy again?". Let us make an introspection today about the sufferings that we consider as sufferings in our lives. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Many martyrs were killed for following Jesus. Many Saints were misunderstood in their religious communities and by the authorities for their involvement in the lives of the poor and downtrodden. Some were literally left in loneliness, distressed situation, criticism, chased away and pushed into wilderness. Suffering becomes meaningful when it emerges from our service for others and it has the capacity to make us holy personally and admirable, appreciable and precious in the eyes of others.

The Spirit has to lead us!
St.Paul exhorted believers to "Be filled with the Spirit?" (Ephasians 5:18), "The Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9). Christ's disciples were Spirit - filled (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 6:5, 7:55, 11:24, 13:9, Revelation 1:9). What dynamic, fruitful ministries they had inspite of many persecutions and conflicts they came across in their proclamation ministry. The secret is that they were filled with the Spirit.

Questions for examination of conscience
Do you say often the following. Then you need reconciliation and conversion.
● "I don't know what is happening. The foundations of my life seem to be shifting"
● 'I've experienced evil as never before…'
● "I often come across severe misunderstandings and conflicts with others"
● "Sometimes I now doubt whether God is really there…'
● 'I'm not sure that I'm really praying properly any more"
● 'What's wrong with me? Why am I different from others?'