Gospel – Matthew 4:1-11
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
A reflection by Br. John Muller, FSC
Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted. … (Matthew 4:1)
While the traditional theme of reflections on this Gospel reading from Matthew is the temptations that Jesus resisted, the narrative setting has often reminded me of my prayerful experiences at Sangre de Cristo Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico. The location was somewhat desert-like and remote, overlooking the vast Rio Grande Valley to the West with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range providing a backdrop to the East. The geography was certainly conducive to reflection and prayer during the three-month spiritual renewal program.
An occasional feature of the schedule, weather-permitting, was a “desert day,” during which time each participant was encouraged to pack a simple lunch and walk to any one of a number of secluded locations on the multi-acre property. Mine was a ledge near a waterfall from a mountain stream – isolated and beautiful. Reading and reflective prayer were the order of the desert day. The landscape cried out the refrain, “All the earth proclaims the Lord.” Just being in such a natural setting, so different for this city dweller, was prayerful. It was not difficult to recall God’s presence both within and without and to sing God’s praises. Perhaps many of you can recall a similar retreat or renewal experience.
One of the Lenten challenges that this Gospel narrative of Jesus’ desert experience provides us is to find a place or even a mind frame, some space apart in your normal surroundings, allowing you to withdraw for a short time, even a minute or two, from all that makes up most of each day and allowing you to be open to the presence of God. Throughout Jesus’ ministry years, Jesus repeatedly withdrew to a place apart, “a desert place,” to find strength to return to his ministry of healing, teaching and preaching. Such a solitary space may not be readily available, but just the desire and intent to seek a place apart to get in touch with God — Jesus who lives in our hearts — is prayerful.
In retrospect, one of the significant practices in my elementary school teaching career in New York City was the hourly classroom prayer, “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.” Although this practice interrupted the lesson in progress, the constant reminder of God’s presence in my life and, I hoped, in the lives of my students had an enduring effect.
“Blessed be the day and the hour of the birth, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. O my God, I give You my heart; grant me the grace to pass this hour and the rest of this day in your holy love and without offending You.”
Perhaps this or some similar prayer may be part of your Lenten “desert day.”
Live Jesus in our Hearts….