13 March 2011Matthew 4:1-11
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished." (vv. 1-2)
The inspiration for our journey through Lent is Jesus being led
by the Spirit into the wilderness. It was an outward, physical
journey into the evocative landscape of the desert - a time of
trial and testing requiring every ounce of Jesus' resolve and
faithfulness. But also an inward journey - facing down the demons
that would repeatedly confront Jesus during his ministry.
Lent probably won't take us out into a physical wilderness. But clearly it does offer us the opportunity for an inward journey - for giving, praying, fasting, penitence, self-examination, self-denial, reading and meditating on God's word - a time of preparation for the events of Christ's passion, death and resurrection.
None of these disciplines is an end in itself. They help us to re-centre ourselves, to re-focus on what is truly important, to re-order our priorities, to repent; to turn away from that which distracts us and deflects us. There is a recognition here that what goes on in the hearts and minds of human beings has a direct bearing on the way we live - and on the direction in which the world moves.
If Lent drives us inward, then hopefully it is in order to renew our energy and commitment towards others. If Lent confronts us with our own sinfulness and weakness, then hopefully it is in order to reassure us of God's forgiveness, and to reinvigorate us with the power of resurrection - a power that can transform the world around us!
Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk of the last century put it like this:
"Far from being essentially opposed to each other, interior contemplation and external activity are two aspects of the same love of God ... Contemplation is the spring - and action is the stream. If prayer is not itself deep, powerful and pure, and filled at all times with the spirit of contemplation, Christian action can never really reach this high level."
What plans do you have for your journey through Lent? How will you use this opportunity for an inward journey and make it as meaningful as possible?
How might you build into your busy everyday life opportunities for contemplation?
What can we learn from the way Jesus handles the temptations which confront him in the wilderness?