Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done (Luke 22:42).
We pray in the Our Father “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” because the common human experience is to be tempted to replace God’s will with our own will. Jesus knew this well and he battled with that temptation throughout his life. We begin this season of Lent with a reflection on Jesus’ experience of being tempted to put himself before his Father. He shows us that we have to be uncompromising in our response to temptation.
Acknowledgement of Country
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the _________ people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered. To acknowledge our gratitude that we share this land today, our sorrow for the costs of that sharing, and our hope that we can move to a place of justice and partnership together.
Please fill us with your spirit of love.
Help us to see the world as you do,
to judge with your heart, and to act with
the strength and courage you have shown us
as we work to transform our world. Amen.
Read the Gospel aloud in the group and then read it again individually and silently.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry.
Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”
But Jesus replied, “Scripture says: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, “I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me, and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall be yours.”
But Jesus answered him, “Scripture says: ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.’”
Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said to him, “throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: “‘He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you’; and again: ‘They will hold you up on their hands, in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’”
But Jesus answered him, “It has been said: ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time. (Luke 4:1-13)
In this part of our Lenten reflection, we interact with St Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus. We pay attention to the elements he uses to teach us about Jesus’ commitment to doing God’s will.
- Reflect together on the role of the Holy Spirit in this event in the life of Jesus. Pay attention to elements, such as Jesus being “led” by the Holy Spirit “through” the “wilderness” for “forty days.”
- What are the three temptations? How are they introduced? To which aspects of the human condition do they relate? How does Jesus respond? What do Jesus’ responses tell you about what he values?
- In relation to the first scene, consider this statement from Joe Battaglia, an American journalist and evangelist. The context for this statement is his reflection on finding freedom within limitations. Discuss how the call to be thankful people is often overcome by our desire to escape the limitations of our temporal existence.
“Our culture encourages us to accumulate things, to have options, to focus on ourselves. The problem is that the more things we accumulate, the more mass we create. And the more mass, the more pull. Soon we cannot pull ourselves away from the things we’ve accumulated because they have such a hold on us. They control us; we do not control them. We attempt to break free, but the pull is too strong.” Excerpt from The Politically Incorrect Jesus Joe Battaglia
- Choose a situation or issue in society that most or all members of the group would like to change so that good is done and evil avoided. Use the three temptations to gain a deeper understanding of how the situation or issue impacts people in society. Identify the signs of God’s presence in the situation you want to change.
In this part of our reflection on the Gospel, we focus on what our faith tells us about how to deal with temptation.
- In the SEE stage of the review, you identified what Jesus values above all else. What do we learn from the Gospel about how to become more like Christ? Apply the three responses made by Jesus to the situation or issue you have been examining.
- Reflect together on the relationship between power, freedom and loving God. Examine the situation or issue and identify the presence or absence of power, freedom and the love of God as elements of the situation or issue.
- What is the message in the Gospel about how to exercise freedom and power like Christ to bring about the good he is calling you to do?
If we have conducted ourselves in the right manner in this experience, then we won’t have to make up things to do. The action will suggest itself.
- What can I do to preserve the dignity of each and every person involved in the situation or issue?
- What can I do personally to make my life conform more to the message of the Gospel? Do I need to change my attitudes and behaviour? If so, in what way?
- In everything you do, put on Christ (Ephesians 4:24): Have I allowed for this in the action I will commit myself to do?
- What can we do as a group? How can we pool our resources in order to meet more effectively the needs we have discovered?
Teach me to be generous,
to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost,
to fight without counting the wounds,
to work without seeking rest,
and to spend my life without expecting any other return
than the knowledge that I do your holy will. Amen.
This image is from the Lamb of God window in the Downing College Chapel, Cambridge University. Jesus is the Lamb of God and he invites us to come to him: “… learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest” (Matthew 11:29). Spend time this Lent reflecting with Jesus about your relationship with him. What does he want to teach you?