Reflection for the first Sunday of Lent (Gn 9: 8-15; Ps 25:4-9; 1P 3:18-22; Mc 1:12-15)
Fr. Charles AGBESSI,SJ
Centre Espérance Loyola – Lomé, TOGO
After Ash Wednesday that has opened us to the Lenten season, here comes the first Sunday of Lent. Lent season is a liturgical period that covers forty days during which the Mother Church prepares its children for Easter through more intense Christian life and various penance practices. These forty days relate to the forty days and nights that Moses spent on fasting before receiving the tables of the Law. They also recall to our lives the forty days during which Jesus, Our Lord, got tempted by Satan in the wilderness between his baptism and his public life.
Indeed, this piece of the Gospel is full of teaching, but we suggest to focus our meditation on the central topic of temptation.
Temptation is a trial that is understood as an examination or probation. This probation leads often to difficulties and even to hardships. It may be attributed either to God or to the Evil one, Satan or the Tempter.
We all know that God does not tempt anyone. God is good all the times. He has no bad intentions towards humankind. He tests people`s faithfulness allowing them to face trials. That`s why the Lord, after liberating Israelites from slavery in Egypt, tested their faithfulness. He allowed that they experience hunger in the wilderness of Sin (Ex 16:1-4). Contrary to the Evil who desires only to destroy, God wills that our faith “more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1P 1:6-7). Therefore, no trials that God allows may go beyond human strength and capacity to resist and triumph. St Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles recalls it saying: “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1Co 10:13).
Sickness is counted among trials that occur in the life of the believer. The experience of sickness may be a trial heavy and difficult to go through because in addition to physical pain, it encompasses psychological, moral, sociological and spiritual suffering. Moreover, this suffering grows more painful when one knows that the sickness has no cure; that its sociological perception is not obviously positive. People living with HIV/AIDS go through such experience and express it with great courage during different meetings such as group-sharing or during individual psychological and spiritual accompaniment. In such conditions, sick persons are obsessed with various questions such as: why only me? Does God really exist? Why then does he let me down and suffer? etc. Sometimes arise thoughts of suicide. However, it is obvious that this suffering that shakes ones faith and bring about revolt can lead one closer to God, if only he or she accepts to go through the experience as participation to the sufferings of Christ. This happened, for instance, to St Theresa of the Child Jesus when she was found infected with Tuberculosis, an incurable ailment at her time. Invaded with doubts on the existence of Heavens, yet she didn’t open her door to the temptation of suicide. On the contrary, she lived this as trial for the purification of her desire of heaven. She accepted this trial with steadfastness and love and didn’t allow it to destroy her; she got the merit to find God`s loving gift in it.
May the intercession of St Bernadette Soubirous, whose memory falls also today, and Our Lady of Lourdes be in favor of the people who are sick, so that they may gain spiritual graces from their suffering and experience relief, healing and wellness.
Click here for the French version: Méditation pour le premier dimanche de Carême