BY DAVID MARION Sunday 1st March
Deuteronomy 26: 4-.l0; Romans 10: 8-13; Luke 4: 1-13
THE ASH of Wednesday will have disappeared and we are already three days into the penitential days of Lent. It was not always as long as it is now. The period of penance and fasting got longer and longer until a 40 day limit was reached in the seventh century under the pontificate of St Gregory the Great.
It is not difficult to see why 40 days were chosen. Our Lord fasted for 40 days, as did Moses and Elias. St Luke's account of the temptations makes Jesus clearly greater than either of those who went before.
Jesus refuses to prove himself to be the Son of God by playing conjuring tricks with bread. Nor will he put God to the test by throwing himself down from the temple. He refuses the offer of world power. The kingdoms of this world are his already.
It is the temptation of power with which we are most familiar. We ail like our share of power over others. We all know, not just politicians, how to keep quiet and fudge the truth rather than offend those who are more powerful than we are.
Jesus did not fall for the temptation of conformity but constantly rhallenged the powerful to such an extent that they finally arranged for him to be put to death.
St Paul's letter to the Romans, part of which we read today, is also about integrity. Words on our lips are not enough. It is what is in our hearts that matters. The differences between Jew and Gentile are of no importance in the life of faith. Whatever our tribe or race we have all become members of the family of God.
Today's first reading from the book of Deuteronomy gives us a very early form of credo. Moses tells his people that, on what was an ancient harvest festival, they should remind themselves of God's goodness. They became a people because God brought them out of Egypt and into a land of milk and honey. He liberated his children, the sons and daughters of Abraham, from slavery.
The credo of the new testament is rather wider. God has liberated not just one people but everyone. We all live, if we want to, in the transnational Body of Christ and share his new life. Such is the message of Easter for which Lent is our preparation.
The Week Ahead Divine Office Week 1
Monday 2nd: S Chad Lev 19: 1-2,11-18; Mt 25:31-46 Tuesday 3rd: Isa 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15 Wedn'day 4th: Jonah 3:1-10; Lk 11:29-32 Thursday 5th: Esther 4:1,3-5,12-14; Mt 7:7-12
Friday 6th: Ezek 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26 Saturday 7th: Ss Perpetua and Felicity Dent 26:16-19; Mt 5:43-48 Sunday 8th: 2nd Sunday of Lent Gen15:5-12,17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28-36 Divine Office Week 2