The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, Duccio, 1310, The Frick Collection, New York City, USA.
“At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1.
This is the time of the year in our northern hemisphere at least, when the notion of spring cleaning takes root, gnaws at us until eventually many of us are moved to do something about it. The accumulated dust and grime of a year in those almost untouched parts of our living space start calling to be cleaned, polished, dusted. And if and when we heed the call, the reward is a sparking home where you really can see the difference. And guess where, on the First Sunday of Lent, all this is leading?
I talked of venial sins a couple of Sundays ago. Those are the little seeds of evil which, if left to themselves, have the potential to destroy our very spirit, our soul, the heart of who we truly are. If left unchallenged, we could become people who are out for ourselves totally, and will never heed the cares and pains of others. We will have convinced ourselves that such pain is imagined, that all these other people need to do is pull themselves together. They are not our business. Then at that point we should heed Jacob Marley’s ghost call out “Mankind was my business” but he heeded it not in his life, and Scrooge’s reformation began. We are not set down here to get everything we can for ourselves out of this world; we are here to heed God’s call, help each other and take care of ourselves within that wider context. And it is not as if there is any difficulty looking for others in need these days. Take a look:
I challenge you to find one smiling face here. These are refugees from their Syrian homeland forced to leave or be killed or maimed by bombs, shells, bullets and/or be tortured by crazed religious extremists. Their days are dominated by the need to find something to eat, to keep their children safe and warm, to find somewhere safe where they will be welcomed. Good luck to all that! Here is something we could address in our spiritual spring clean. What are we – I – you – going to do about it? They are our neighbors, they are God’s children. They are suffering through no fault of their own. They are penniless. They need help, they need friends.
All this is not forget the needs which surround each of us, the needs of our own families and friends. How can we help them too? So if we have not been as responsive as we could have been to the needs of others of which we are aware, Lent is the time to do some soul-searching. I remember years ago of giving up something (invariably chocolate) for this long season; surely it would be more positive to ask what should I do which I have not done before for this long season? Wouldn’t it be great if, as the greatest feast of all overtakes us, that at Easter we can look around and see the good that we have done? A spiritual spring clean will result in a grace-filled Easter, with the strength perhaps of continuing our good deeds for those in great need, as their needs will continue way beyond that time. But perhaps they will now be able to count a little more on our help and generosity as a consequence of this Lent.
Consider the Lord’s trek into the wilderness (today’s gospel) on learning he was God’s Son and, indeed, the long-promised Messiah. He was first tempted to use his newly-discovered divine powers as God to turn stones into bread as he was hungry. That would be to serve himself exclusively. No; we must be filled by God’s word which will direct us to help others. Then came the temptation to challenge God; no again. Trust in God, do not test God. Very well, accumulate immense wealth through all possible, even evil, ways to make yourself immensely rich and become the envy of all. No – to God alone be the glory and power; it is through serving God and not ourselves that true peace is to be found. The devil and all his works and pomps was rejected.
So as we know God’s will – to love God, neighbor and self – we must use our power, our finances, our skills and our prayers to help others, especially those in need. We trust that by doing that, we will serve God truly and well, and trust in God’s benevolence to implement our good wishes for others. By this means, we store up immense spiritual riches which will last forever and will strengthen our friendship with God. Well. I’ve convinced myself I need to something extra for Lent; now to figure out what would be manageable and best. Have a great spiritual spring clean!
PS: The link below claims that it is directed at women only. Don’t believe it!
Reflections on the following Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
Please forward this webpage on to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.