Forty Days and Nights of God’s Grace and
Have you ever been to a secluded place, by yourself, just to think
about things and be quiet, be still? This would be somewhat like going
on a retreat. How would you spend your time alone? When I go to a secluded
place, I like to walk and think things over. Sometimes I’ll stop
and sit down to keep on thinking, appreciating, thanking and just to marvel
at the sights and sounds. But wouldn’t this time alone also be a
good time to evaluate our lives? Wouldn’t this be a perfect time
to reflect on our sins, our mistakes and shortcomings and consider how
we can do better next time? Wouldn’t it be a great time to pray
and find God; to praise and thank him for the many blessings he has given
us in our lives?
What motivated Jesus to spend 40 days and nights of solitude, prayer
and fasting in the wilderness of Judea? Hardly anyone lived in the desert
and one who were to travel in it would encounter many dangers –
the scorching heat by day, extreme cold at night, wild animals, scorpions
and a lack of food and water. The desert was a place of testing, encounter
and renewal. Moses went to Mt. Sinai to encounter God and he stayed there
for 40 days and nights. Elijah the prophet spent 40 days of journey in
the desert. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert to prepare himself for the
mission the Father sent him to accomplish.
But Jesus’ preparation included times of testing and temptations
by the devil. The word tempt in English usually means to entice to sin.
The scriptural word also means test in the sense of proving and purifying
someone to see if they are ready for the task at hand. We test pilots
to see that they are fit to fly. Medical students go through a lot of
tests and exams before they can work as doctors. Likewise, God tests his
servants to see if they are fit to be used by him. God tested Abraham
to prove his faith. The Israelites were sorely tested in Egypt before
God delivered them from their enemies. Jesus was no exception to this
Satan, in turn, did his best to entice Jesus to choose his own will
over the will of his Father. Despite his weakened condition, due to fatigue
and hunger for 40 days, Jesus steadfastly rejected Satan’s subtle
and not so subtle temptations. Where did Jesus find his strength to survive
the desert’s harsh conditions and the devil’s seductions?
He fed on his Father’s word and found strength in doing God’s
will. Jesus was tempted like us, but he didn’t try to fight his
enemy. He overcame sin not by his own strength, but by his Father’s
grace. Jesus succeeded because he loved his Father and he trusted that
his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that
stood in the way.
Jesus came to overthrow the evil one who made us slaves to sin and
the fear of death. His obedience to the Father’s will and his willingness
to embrace the cross reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience.
His victory over sin and death won for us not only the forgiveness of
our sins but also adoption as sons and daughters of God.
We, too, can overcome sin and death through our faith, hope and love
for God; through prayer, reflection, fasting and meditation – ways
by which we can have a most blessed season of Lent. All these are the
graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is always ready to pour
out his Spirit upon us so that we may have the strength and courage to
resist sin and to reject the lies and deceits of our enemy the devil.
We simply need to ask for God’s help and call upon his name. We
just heart from the second reading, Paul’s letter to the Romans,
that “the Lord enriches all who call upon him. For everyone who
calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” God wants us to fight
the good fight of faith with the power and strength which comes from the
Holy Spirit. Do we rely on the Lord for our strength and help?
Remember our responsorial psalm. What does God say to us? God says,
“because you cleave to me in love; I will deliver you. I will protect
you because you know my name. When you call me, I will answer you. I will
be with you in time of trouble; I will rescue you and honor you.”
How great, how merciful and loving is the Lord our God!