by Sister Ann Rehrauer
Each year in Lent the Church invites us into a time of renewal -– a spiritual springtime of remembering and recommitting ourselves to Jesus. The Gospel states that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, then led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, and from there began his mission. Each of us has also been baptized, reminded that we are God’s “beloved,” and sent to live as disciples.
As I reflected on the other readings for this Sunday, it seemed a bit strange at first that they focused on gratitude and a sense of confidence, rather than repentance. Israel had experienced deliverance from the slavery of Egypt and was given a rich and fruitful land. In response, they offered a sacrifice of gratitude from their abundant crops.
Paul reminded the Romans who were suffering persecution that God’s word is always near us to guide us -– in our mouth and in our heart. If we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord, salvation is assured.
So how do confidence, gratitude, and temptation go together?
Recently I visited with a retired sister who lives in a residence with other seniors. She shared how grateful she is that God has given her good health so that she can still drive others to church, lead a Scripture group, and sometime help out others in the building who find life challenging.
That same week I met with a sister who is dealing with some cognitive difficulties herself and can no longer drive, and lives with chronic pain. Yet that same attitude of gratitude came through as she expressed how good God has been to her and how blessed she is.
Discipleship is a journey and a process. Over the years we grow in our understanding of what God’s call means and we experience what it is to be the “beloved” son or daughter of God. We also face some of the same temptations Jesus faced in the Gospel, and hear the same call to surrender ourselves to whatever God asks of us as each stage of life.
It may be facing spiritual hunger or emptiness, discouragement in our ministry from failed efforts or misunderstood intentions, or it may be the loss of control that comes when we are unable to change things or to make good things happen for others. In spite of the challenges and temptations, we live with an attitude of confidence and gratitude.
During these next six weeks of Lent I invite you to use the opening prayer of today’s Liturgy each morning in a spirit of confidence and with gratitude for the blessings we have already received, but also asking that in times of temptation or challenge “we may grow in understanding the riches hidden in Christ, and by worthy conduct (or efforts), pursue their effects.”
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"... Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, then led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, and from there began his mission." In the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, Gospel of Mark 1:12, "... the Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness." What a difference a word makes! I bring this up because it's OK to know that the Spirit does, at times, 'push' or 'move' us with such a compelling notion, like a strong, burning idea or intuition. The Spirit is gentle, yet also very strong -- and convincing, as S/He needs to be! I have found repeatedly in my life experiences, when I respond to that compelling 'push' or 'movement' and attend a certain event or service that I feel drawn or 'sent' to, I discover and learn so much more of the ways-and-life-and-spirit-of-God! -- Linda