First Sunday of Lent

Engaging Faith | Wed, Feb 17, 2010

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

First Sunday of Lent February 21, 2010 

ReadingsDeuteronomy 26:4-10Romans 10:8-13Luke 4:1-13 

February 20: World Day of Social Justice  

Each year, on the occasion of Lent, the Church invites us to a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings of the Gospel. Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2010 The hopes and forces which are moving the world in its very foundations are not foreign to the dynamism of the Gospel, which through the power of the Holy Spirit frees people from personal sin and from its consequences in social life.  1971 Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, #5

Contemplating “Him whom they have pierced” moves us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it moves us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must “regive” to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need.

 Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2007 “The fundamental sin is exploitation, whether it be expressed in the domination of male over female, white over black, rich over poor, strong over weak, armed military over unarmed civilians, human beings over nature.  These analogously abusive patterns interlock because they reset on the same base: a structure where an elite insists on its superiority and claims the right to exercise dominative power over all others considered subordinate, for its own benefit. … What is being looked for is not simply the solution to one problem, but an entire shift of world view away from patterns of dominance toward mutually enhancing relationships.”

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ. She Who Is, 27-28

 One may sin by greed and the desire for power, but one may also sin in these matters through fear, indecision, and cowardice!John Paul II, On Social Concern 

Thoughts for your consideration

TEMPTATION Jesus wrestles with temptation during his days in the desert.  We too wrestle with temptation as we encounter our 21st century culture. Lent is our time to be aware of the temptations and turn back to God’s values.  We may be tempted to see salvation in military power, or in our personal economic prosperity, or in our fame and notoriety. We may be tempted to find salvation in patriotism or consumerism or capitalism or socialism or humanism. God’s salvation is bigger than all these things or any particular ideology. 

LIBERATION  Lent is a season for liberation. The Exodus story (referred to in the first reading) is a story about liberation from slavery. Today people all over the world, especially those who suffer in some way or are victims of injustice are also seeking liberation from all kinds of oppression and ideology. The members of the RCIA who want to be baptized at Easter are seeking liberation. The whole church is seeking liberation. On some level the whole world is seeking it.  

HOPE  Jesus confronted temptation and was able to say “no.” There is hope for us! It is possible to resist temptation; it is possible to resist the pressures of our culture and society and to be free. It is possible to move beyond materialism or the reliance on violence to resolve conflict. Jesus’ forty days in the desert and his encounter with the evil one are a sign of hope for us all. 

WITHOUT VIOLENCE In the first reading from Exodus the people are told to remember the Exodus experience, the extraordinary story of slaves walking away from their captors not by violence or military might but by the power of God and God’s passionate concern for justice and liberation. This story is central for any theology of liberation or for any spirituality of liberation.  

AWARENESS The pattern of the Exodus experience is repeated in the life of Jesus. Jesus’ 40 days in the desert parallels the 40 years of biblical Exodus experience and parallels our annual 40 days of Lenten renewal. Jesus becomes aware of the insidious temptation to be a slave to bread or power or prestige. Out of this awareness comes a commitment to a nonviolent compassionate love rather than a domination over others.  The gift of the forty days is the wisdom to identify and wrestle with the spirits and the power to overcome the evil one.  

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

 The experience of liberation – the amazing strength to see the good and do it: 

Have you had this experience?

When?  How?  What is your experience of “temptation?” 

What is your experience of temptation toward some sort of “social sin?” 

Action - Links

MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FOR LENT 2010Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent can be found at: Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine … God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18).  

Carbon FastLent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  In light of the danger of climate change and environmental destruction of the earth as we know it, in recent years some people in the church have proposed that Christians take part in a “Carbon Fast” during Lent.  Get more info about the effort at ttp:// .  The environmental outreach committee of the Archdiocese of Washington has put together a calendar which suggestions for such a form of fasting.  Check it out at:  “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.” — Pope Benedict, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate

Natural Resources Defense Council

“The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.” You can participate in their online actions at

“Crazy Facts”
Each year from 1998 through 2007 ranks among the top 25 warmest years on record for the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

The World Health Organization estimates that since 2000 one million people have been killed directly or indirectly because of our warming planet.  This is not including death from air pollution, which kills 800,000 people each year and is expected to worsen with global warming.

Prayers of Intercession Response:  Bless us on our Lenten journey to life.For all those who are struggling through the experience of poverty and injustice, we pray….For those who do not have access of good health care, we pray….For all children who do not have enough to eat or a decent place to live, we pray….For all refugees and immigrants who are struggling to find a home with dignity, we pray….For all people caught up in the violence of war, especially civil wars, we pray….For planet earth and all its creatures who are affected by human abuse and overuse, we pray….For all those who are discouraged as they seek to act for justice and liberation for all, we pray….   

A Prayer for the Journey

 God, as we journey, help us not to get lost. Help us not to wander off the road. Help us to remember that your Spirit is guiding us. Help us to keep our eyes on the prize.God, may we travel with our eyes open. Free us from all indoctrination. Free us from all the pressures of our culture. Free us from our fear of the truth.God, may we not travel alone. May the Spirit always walk with us. May we walk with the poor and those most in need. May we walk in community and carry one another.God, help us now and forever. Amen.  

Lenten Prayer from the Education for Justice Sitehttp:
Awaken in us the desire for a change in lifestyleand a reform of damaging consumptionpatterns. Show us the way to overcome“structures of sin,” and the pull of our ownwants by harnessing our desire to formsustainable communities. Help us see andunderstand the connection between our ownaffluence and the poverty of others.