Sunday Food For Thought: Strength in the Lord

1st Sunday of Lent:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Meditation Reflection: Luke 4:1-13

Directly after Jesus’ Baptism, the inauguration of His transition from His Hidden Life in Nazareth to His public ministry, the Spirit led Him into the desert for a time of preparation first – to fast, pray, and face temptation.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit periodically draws us away from the noise of life and the distractions of the senses to be able to connect with God in a deeper interior way.  In some cases, we choose to place ourselves in quiet reflection by going on a retreat or planning a weekend of solitude.  At other times, the circumstances of life create that solitude for us.

It reminds me of standing ankle-deep in the waves of the ocean on the beach.  As the water cascades over my feet, it carries with it a flurry of sand, shells, seaweed, and teems with life and energy.  Then it recedes, drawing back everything it had just placed before me.  Even the sand around my feet recedes leaving me only two small mounds beneath my arches. 

Times of solitude can feel lonely and a little barren like the desert.  However, they can be opportunities for prayer and preparation for the next mission God has for us when the water will return, replenished and shimmering.

The devil of course hates for us to follow Christ and he especially despises when we build the kingdom of God.  He therefore attempts to derail us in any way possible. He prevents us from God’s work in a myriad of ways tailored to our own personal weaknesses.  The devil distracts us with physical pleasures and the lie that if we don’t satisfy our body’s whims and desires, we will die, or at least be so miserable it’s not worth living. 

During Lent, we face this lie and temptation, strengthening or will over our body and seeking joy in the Lord by giving up sweets, pop, alcohol, snacking, over-sleeping, staying up too late, etc., and replacing them with added prayer or spiritual exercises.

Another tactic favored by the devil is to redirect the trajectory of our work by aiming our talents at building the kingdom of self rather than the kingdom of God.  He tempted Jesus with an enticement of kingship without the cross.  Similarly, Satan attempts to promise us success and happiness without the suffering of the cross, if only we would exchange our faith in God for faith in ourselves. 

Lastly, if we thwart both pitfalls through strength of faith and love, the devil makes his last attack by twisting God’s own words and attempting to skew our relationship with the Lord.  The devil hates the Church because Christ empowered it with His authority to preach truth and correctly interpret Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit, as well as the grace of Christ to live it.  If we listen to the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Church the devil loses his power to trick us “and will depart for a time”. 

If we pay careful attention, we can learn the tricks of the devil in our own lives.  St. Ignatius of Loyola began to notice this too and developed rules of discernment that have become a classic in the Christian life.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in self-knowledge and provide the grace to overcome temptation so as to live in the freedom of the kingdom of God and work unhindered for His glory.

Consider:

+ Spend some time in prayer reflecting on your average day. Consider what things unnecessarily slow you down, distract you, make you late, frustrate your work, or prevent you from getting started on something.   Implement a plan to combat one of them. 

+ Consider the three categories of temptations from the Gospel today and how each one applies to you. This Lent build strength by combatting the pleasure that has a hold over you, the suffering you are trying to avoid or the status you are trying to achieve, and grow in knowledge of your faith to protect you from the deceptions of the devil.

+ Look back on your life and reflect on how God prepared you before raising you up for something. How did you feel beforehand and after?  Have you experienced deeper and richer faith after a time of solitude or difficulty?

Practical Application:

 + Commit to a Lenten resolution even if you fail at it periodically. Give something up and/or do something extra to strengthen your relationship with Christ and weaken your relationship with sin.

+ Read (or listen to the audiobook) C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. It’s short, entertaining, and enlightening.  It’s a satirical work which features letters from an experienced demon to a lesser experienced one about how to tempt humans.

+ Listen to Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s podcasts on St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits. He presents Ignatius’s ideas in an understandable and relatable way. (discerninghearts.com)

This reflection is an excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love available in ebook or paperback. Order a copy and don’t miss a single week!

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

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