Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scripture On Sundays - Testing Your Faith

The word Lent is from the Anglo-Saxon "lencten" (spring). For the Catholic Church, Lent is a renewal period, starting on Ash Wednesday.  It is a forty-day period in which we enter into a time of penance, preparation, and spiritual renewal.

Today's first reading from Deuteronomy commends Israel for its faith in the God who saves.  No matter what the tribulation, Israel's faith enables it to persevere. 

4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.
5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.
6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor.
7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.
8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders.
9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;
10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me." Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before Him.
Deuteronomy 26:4-10

This faith testing theme also appears in the second reading from St. Paul to the Romans.  Here, Paul boldly asserts that faith in Christ will see the believer through any trial.

Brothers and sisters:
8 What does Scripture say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him,
13 for, "Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:8-13

The  gospel passage from Luke makes it clear that even Jesus was tested.  It describes a test, a struggle between good and evil, that dramatically demonstrates Jesus' faith in the power of God's life in Him.  This power enables Him to overcome the devil's temptation.  This power is with all of us who celebrate the test of Lent.

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert,
2 where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry.
3 The devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."
4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.' "
5 The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
6 And he said to Him, "I will give You all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
7 So if You worship me, it will all be Yours."
8 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.' "
9 The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If You are the Son of God," he said, "throw Yourself down from here.
10 For it is written: " 'He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
12 Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time.
Luke 4:1-13

A temptation that often presents itself is one which tries to convince us that fasting, penance, and self-denial are merely unimportant and antiquated practices of the past. We think we are no longer in need of these things, for we are "enlightened". We begin to tell ourselves we are loved "just as we are", and that further repentance, conversion and spiritual growth are unnecessary. These types of ideas, of course, come from the same tempter which attacked Christ in the desert.

Our Lenten observance is a part of our response to a call to holiness. The penitential practices of this Holy season include fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

I have to confess most of this commentary (other than the scripture) was taken from the Sunday bulletin of the Catholic Church of the Ascension in Fort Myers Beach, FL and from an article written by F.K. Bartels from   

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