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This Sunday's Programme

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1st Sunday Lent C

Sunday 6th March 2022

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Lk 4:1-13

Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil for forty days. He ate nothing in that time and as it drew to a close, he hungered. So the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ But Jesus replied to him, ‘Not on bread alone does a human person live.’

Then the devil, leading him up a high mountain, showed him all the nations of the world in a blink of time and then said to him, ‘All this power and glory belong to me and to whomsoever I want to give them. If you bow down and worship me, all will be yours.’ But Jesus replied to him, ‘It is written, “God alone will you bow down and worship. God alone shall you serve.” ’

Then the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple. He then said to him, ‘Throw yourself down from here for it is written, “He will have his angels care for you to protect you. They will carry you in their hands in case you jar your foot against a stone.”’ But Jesus replied to him, ‘It is said, “You must not test the Lord your God.”’

And when the devil had tried every test, he departed until the appointed time.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 90:1-2, 10-15

God shelters those who hid in him.
To God they say, “You are my refuge and my fortress
My God, in whom I trust.”

No evil will befall you, no plague come near your home.
For God charges his angels to watch over you,
to keep you safe in all your ways.
They shall bear you in their hands
lest your foot strike against a stone.

‘You will tread upon lion and snake,
the young lion and dragon you will stamp underfoot.’
All this because they have set their love upon me,
and I will deliver them.
I will make them impregnable
because they know my name.

They shall call upon me and I will answer them.
I will be with them in their troubles,
I will liberate them and give them glory.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, as we enter into Lent may we be prepared to journey with Jesus in weakness and vulnerability. May he bring his Spirit into the dark places of our hearts and then live so that in our weakness we discover the depth of your love enfolding us. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

In his Gospel, Luke places the Testing of Jesus after his Baptism, where the Father had declared him ‘Son of God’, and after the genealogy which traced Jesus’ ancestry right back to Adam, who also is stated to be ‘Son of God.’ Questions raised in the reader’s mind might be ‘What type of “Son of God” is Jesus to be? How is this divine person going to experience his humanity?’ In that context Luke then has Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert to be tested. But by whom and about what? Testing/temptation in the biblical understanding can be done either by God or by the devil with its purpose being to test the godly regarding their fidelity to God. The scriptures had had plenty of experience with the testing of the descendants of Adam, the Son of God. Indeed the word ‘forty’ will immediately bring to mind the ‘testing’ of the people of Israel in the desert where they repeatedly failed to live according to God’s commandments. That Jesus’ response to each of his temptations comes from the book of Deuteronomy, underlines how Jesus is now proving to be the faithful Son where the people of Israel had failed.

The temptations cover three areas in human life: basic needs, the use of authority, the lure of appearances. In the first temptation, Jesus, having been led by the Spirit to experience human weakness, is tempted to use his power to break that fast. In other words, to place his needs above the calling of the Spirit in that particular situation. In the second temptation, Jesus is invited to debase the use of authority into a world of power play where ‘might is right’. In the final temptation, Jesus is tempted to use ‘signs and wonders’ to entice people to become his followers, rather than invite them to enter into the slow and arduous transformation of the heart.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

In all three synoptic Gospels, immediately after his baptism, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the desert for a period of ‘testing’, even ‘extreme testing’. The term ‘testing’ is a better translation than ‘temptation’ as the latter normally has pejorative connotations, while ‘testing’ differs in its meaning according to the intent of the tester. In Israelite history, God ‘tested’ his people to reveal what was in their hearts and to teach them his ways. This testing was not for condemnation but for education. In the desert, Jesus is tested first by circumstances before he is tested by Satan. In loneliness and deprivation he comes to know and understand human weakness and vulnerability. Then the devil begins his testing, the aim of which is to discover who Jesus really is and to destroy. The devil desires not to confirm Jesus in his identity as ‘Son of God’ but rather to confuse him and thereby destroy him. Jesus, though, uses the testing to experience in his flesh what ‘Son of God’ would feel like to a weak vulnerable human exposed to the illusions of the devil. And in that experience he becomes our brother, the one to whom we can turn in time of testing.

So, like a two edged sword that can cut both ways, testing/temptation can work in differing ways in our hearts. It can confuse and destroy us by offering choices that undermine our relationships with God and other people. Or it can sift our hearts and educate us to recognise what it truly important in life; worship of God and love of others. The choice will be ours. In order to make it, we will have to go out into our own desert and face our weakness and vulnerability but we will not be alone. The one who has known our weakness and fragility is there waiting to support us.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

I’ve heard it said that it takes 28 days to change a habit. Lent goes for 40 days so this season isn’t about self-improvement. Besides, the devil didn’t drive Jesus into the desert for self-improvement. Rather he was driven there to feel weakness, vulnerability and then extreme temptation.

Jesus was firstly tempted to allow basic needs to dominate his life. He was asked to allow his desire for food to determine his actions rather than God’s word for him.
Jesus was then tempted to enter into power games in his exercise of authority. If he went under the power of the devil, all people would go under him. But Jesus was to offer his salvation in complete respect for human freedom.
Jesus was then tempted to put on a dramatic show that would capture people’s attention. He was to offer ‘show rather than substance.’

That Jesus underwent such a long period of time experiencing weakness, vulnerability and testing should make us reassess their role in our lives. And considering the temptations he faced should lead us to ask questions about our own lives:

How do I allow my perceived needs, or even my wants, to determine my actions and lifestyle rather than being the person God is calling me to be?
Do I play power games, by allowing myself to be dominated or by dominating, rather than simply serving or allowing myself to be served?
Do I allow myself to be captivated by ‘show’ or ‘appearances’ rather than do the labour of uncovering true substance in my life and in the lives of others?

The answers to these questions can haunt us for some time…but then we are given the next forty days just to do so.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

Art Works

  • This illustration of the second temptation (click red text) comes from the St Albans Psalter, an English illuminated manuscript of the 12th century, and is one of the most important examples of English Romanesque book production.
  • In Christ in the Desert (click red text) by the Russian artist Ivan Kramskoy (1837 – 1887) we are confronted by a starving Christ who truly looks as though he has faced the abyss. Of this painting, Tolstoy said “ It is the best Christ I ever saw.” Look at this close up of Christ’s face (click red text).
  • This presentation of the third Temptation is by Jean-Marie Saint-Eve (1810 -1856), a French artist (click red text) See also this collection.
  • Temptations of Christ by William Blake. (click red text)
  • In the painting to the right, Christ strides into the wilderness (click red text) . The sunrise betokens that dawning of a new era. Dagmar Anders is a living German-Austrian art painter, art collector and art gallery owner.

Movies

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week mull on your attitude to weakness and vulnerability. How do you react when you feel like this in various situations? Can you see how these situations can teach you about yourself and your relationship with God?

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God

When you are at rest see how you would react to the testing that was put to Jesus.
Ask yourself:
How do I allow my perceived needs, or even my wants, to determine my actions and lifestyle rather than being the person God is calling me to be?

Do I play power games, by allowing myself to be dominated or by dominating, rather than simply serving or allowing myself to be served?

Do I allow myself to be captivated by ‘show’ or ‘appearances’ rather than do the labour of uncovering true substance in my life and in the lives of others?

As answers to the questions emerge sit with Jesus in his experience of weakness and vulnerability.

Rest in the love of your God.

Suggestions for the Programme

The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.

DAILY PRAYER

Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Our Father
Prayer

Or

Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
Psalm
Our Father

PRAYER

Staff Prayer
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.

Example
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Reflection
Invitation for share reflections
Our Father
Prayer

Another Example
Hymn
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
Psalm
Our Father
Prayer

  • Forty Days and Forty Nights by George Hunt Smyttan
  • For Forty Years God’s People by Stephen Sommerville.
  • From Ashes to the Living Font by Alan J Hommerding
  • Grant to us, O Lord by Lucien Deiss
  • _May this Lenten Discipline _ by James MacAuley