March 9, 2014 - 1st Sunday of Lent

posted Mar 4, 2014, 9:01 PM by Domain Admin   [ updated May 7, 2016, 10:24 PM ]

Gospel of Matthew 4: 1-11

Ali's Reflection
As we prepare for another season of Lent and as I reflect on this week’s Gospel, the word that comes to mind is discipline. Jesus’ encounters with the devil, reminded me of the days when I was a much younger and more fit person than I am now. I believe a lot of the reason I was probably that way was because of my participation in a martial arts discipline in my early teens. But in order to get earn my black belt, I had to endure numerous tests, which I had to complete after each belt rank. It didn’t get any easier as I progressed up, and it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park come time for the black belt test. The black belt test wasn’t just one test either; it was more like a bunch of tests combined throughout weeks of training, which included all aspects of the art, ranging from stamina and endurance exercises, to technique and forms routines, to demonstrating poise and power by breaking objects, and even mental and spiritual preparation through memorizing terminology and reciting doctrine by heart. My teachers and trainers didn’t make it easy at all; they pushed me to my body’s limits, scrutinized me, and were even outright cruel at times as they criticized me and my classmates. It would have been all too easy to just give in and fold to pressures of wanting to relieve the pain and difficulty of it all, but somehow I didn’t.

As I look back at my experience, I realize it might seem like a superficial example of self-discipline. But what got me through the tests is essentially what matters most and is what I think the Gospel reading is trying to emphasize around Jesus’ ability to resist the temptations of the devil. The gifts of knowledge, wisdom, discernment and courage. The inner virtues of fortitude, modesty, humility, and temperance are what may have helped Jesus pull through and conquer over temptation. And ultimately, God blessed us with the power of choice to help us discern some of the toughest decisions in our lives. As a young person, in today’s society, it may never have been anymore daunting and overwhelming a period in one’s life to be tempted and tested, given the pressures of media, peers, bullying, the desire to stand out or fit in, and even just the mere nature of growing as an adolescent.

With that said, I’ve come to really appreciate the season of Lent because it can most certainly be a time of reflection and disciplining ourselves, but through an intent focus on improving our relationship with God and what He asks of us on a daily basis. During Lent, we are reminded to turn to prayer for guidance to make decisions. We fast as a way to discipline our innate impulses and be modest with what possessions we are given in life. We participate in alms giving to show our humility and prioritize service. While Jesus spent 40 days and nights alone praying and disciplining himself, I think Lent, for us, is meant to be the total opposite and is not a time to be completely alone. We can draw closer to God by reflecting with others on our actions and how we are with one another, how we treat one another, and how we serve and respect those whom we may find ourselves least likely to help and acknowledge. Use these next 40 days not just to focus on yourself but also on your relationships to people in your life and how you have an impact on them, however close or distant they may be.

For those having difficulty deciding on what to focus on, consider these suggestions: Avoid putting priority on material things or possessions (modesty), resist using power for doing foolish things just to impress others (humility), refuse to cooperate with evil and injustice to achieve life’s goals (temperance & patience). Pray about how you choose to focus your offerings this Lenten season. Seek ways to discipline yourself and answer the call towards discipleship.

Harland's Reflection
Today’s gospel reminds me of the challenges, tests, difficulties, and temptations we all face on a daily basis. Personally, I wasn’t fully aware and didn’t clearly see temptation in front of me when I was younger. I always defaulted to going with the flow and made decisions with less scrutiny and more recklessness. This often times got me in trouble and produced some well-deserved scolding and lecturing from my parents. However, with my accelerating age, these challenges and temptations are becoming more abundantly clear to me. They are always constant, and consistently challenge my faith and relationship with God. This burden can all be a bit overwhelming at times and truly test us. The important thing to figure out is to consider how we deal with all this pressure that comes to us. I have my own method that has worked well for me and it's pretty simple.

First off, I have always looked to God for guidance, trying to relate my problems to His life and seeing if I can draw any parallels that will help me in a certain situation. Often times that is enough for me to make a good decision. Secondly, I seek counsel from friends and family. The people closest to me tend to find a way to give advice and support me with whatever choices I make. They provide helpful perspective when my vision is clouded by outside factors and help me see clearly. Lastly, I have learned to trust in myself and my decision making because it is rooted in faith, and supported by my true friends and loved ones.

With Lent approaching, I hope we all use it as an opportunity to grow in our faith. Look for ways to not only give superficial objects up for 40 days, but also seek ways to grow as a person of faith. I challenge you all to find time to connect with your loved ones and most importantly God. Dig deep within, be truthful to yourselves, and become better people. Find time for prayer and personal reflection and be open and willing to share what you learn with others.