Tag Archives: 1st Sunday of Lent

1st Sunday of Lent

Lent 1
Today’s Readings
for Swahili

Sunday Readings

When Mao Zedong was supreme ruler of China from 1949-1976, he regularly sent young recruits for the Communist party on what was called the “Long March”– an 8,000 mile journey through some of the toughest parts of western China that Mao and his army took in 1935 to evade their enemies. That march made them into a strong fighting force that eventually conquered China. Mao believed young recruits would learn to be good Communists by retracing the way he and his soldiers went in 1935.

Lent is our “Long March.” For 40 days, we retrace the journey Jesus took to his death and resurrection. We begin in the Jordan Valley, where the gospels and the earliest accounts from the Acts of the Apostles say that Jesus began his ministry. He entered the Jordan River to be baptized by John; the heavens opened and God the Father declared: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Here’s the One I’m sending you, the Messiah, listen to him.The Jordan wilderness was one of the places the Jews looked for the Messiah to appear.

The Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. Then, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to begin the first steps of his journey and for 40 days Jesus was tempted by the devil.

He was tempted to be a Messiah of another kind. Live another life instead of the life God wants you to live, Satan says. In the desert Satan “offers Jesus another messianic way, far from God’s plan, because it passes through power, success, dominion and not through the total gift on the Cross. This is an alternative messianism of power, of success, not the messianism of gift and selfless love.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Lenten Reflection 2012)

Matthew’s gospel offers an interesting summary of Jesus’ temptations. “Turn these stones into bread,” Satan says. “You’re above the ordinary laws of life. You don’t have to get hungry or tired or sick or die like other human beings. You’re superman.” From a mountain, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. “Here’s political power,” Satan says. “You’re an ideal political candidate; they will fall at your feet. You can always be popular and they’ll flock to your side.” From the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, Satan says “Throw yourself down; you can have religious power. You can even tell God what to do.”

Aren’t we tempted like that too? We like to control things, to snap our fingers and have stones become bread; we like things to run smoothly and have the world on our side; we even like to control God. His great wish is “ his will be done, his kingdom come.” Our temptation is “my will, my kingdom come.”

The gospels say the temptations of Jesus lasted for 40 days. Then, according to Mark’s gospel:

“After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Jesus followed John the Baptist and the way of the prophets. He went, not to Jerusalem the center of religious and political power, but to Galilee to proclaim the gospel of God to a people who “live in darkness and the shadow of death.” He taught and did great works, but his journey was not easy; it was still a wilderness where he faced again the temptations he faced in the desert. His temptations were not over after 40 days. They continued into Galilee and then in Jerusalem where he died on the Cross. He still got hungry and tired. He still was tested to give up his mission as Messiah. His journey wasn’t easy; it was a long march.

In Lent we make the Long March. But remember, it’s a Long March with Jesus. We go and live in his grace, as children of God.

The saints, our examples and guides, were tempted like Jesus in their lives too. Here’s St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, describing the temptations he faced not once, but often: “I was dry, distracted and tempted. I had to force myself to stay at prayer. I was tempted to gluttony and seized with hunger. I felt the cold more than usual and wanted some relief, and on that account I wanted to flee from prayer. By the grace of God, my spirit held out, but the violence and assaults kept coming both from my flesh and the devil.” (Spiritual Diary, December 10-13)

Swahili
Lent

Jumapili ya Kwanza ya Kwaresima Matayo 4: 1-11
Padre Evans Fwamba Cp
Ingawa maandiko matakatifu yasema, Yesu alichugua ubinadam wetu akawa kama sisi kwa kila namna isipokuwa dhambi. Mara nyingi tunavutwa kumuona yuko tofauti na sisi. Tunamuona kama anayetenda miujiza, mwalimu wa uhakika, Bwana wa yasiyowezekana. Lakini tunapomuangalia Kristu jangwani tunamuona akiwa mchovu, mnyonge, na kuhangaika katika mazingira magumu na hatari. Tunajiuliza na kutafakari, je maisha yake yalikuwa hivi kwa kiasi kikubwa?Nasi pia wanadamu hapa duniani ni kama tuko jangwani. Tunapitia yale yote Yesu aliyoyapitia, vishawishi.

Tunatafakari jinsi Yesu alivyojaribiwa jangwani. Kwanza, tukifikiri juu ya maisha ya uhitaji aliyoyaishi, hasa katika utume wake. Watu walimletea matatizo na mahangaiko yao, tunamuona kipofu kando ya barabara akiomba kuponywa, mtu aliyepooza aliyeshushwa kutoka darini, mwanamke aliyebembeleza ili binti yake apone, na wagonjwa wengi waliokuja kwake kila wakati. Je Yesu Kristo alichoka kutenda mema? La hasha, hakuchoka kutenda mema. Nasi pia tusichoke kutenda yaliyomema.

Jaribio la kwanza la Yesu jangwani ni shetani anamshawishi abadili jiwe liwe mkate. Ni jaribio ambalo linataka Yesu atumie uwezo na nguvu zake kwa manufaa yake mwenyewe, ubinafsi. Lakini nguvu ya kufanya miujiza ni kwa ajili ya wengine na utukufu wa mungu si manufaa yake mwenyewe.

Nasi pia tunajaribiwa kutumia mamlaka, nguvu zetu kwa ajili ya manufaa yetu. Mfano Daudi anatumia mamlaka yake na kulala na mke wa mwenzake 2Sam 11:1-27, Binti ya Herodi anatumia vibaya kibaji chake cha kucheza kwa kutaka kichwa cha Yohane Mbatizaji Marko 6:14-29. Je zile nafasi na uwezo mungu ametujalia katika jamii tunazitumiaje? Na vipaji vyetu mbali mbali tunavitumia je?

Mtakatifu Paulo Wa Msalaba alijua kujaribiwa kwake ni katika maisha ya kawaida na kwenye sala, anasema alikuwa amekauka kiroho, kusumbuliwa na kujaribiwa ili aache kutafakari juu ya mateso ya kristu. Alijaribiwa kuwa mlafi na kupatwa na njaa, alipigwa na baridi sana na kutamani kutoroka sala. Lakini kwa neema ya mungu aliweza kustahimili hayo yote. Tunapokuwa na shida kwenye maisha yetu ya kawaida na sala zetu tunatoroka au tunaomba neema za mungu tustahimili?……..

The Temptations of Jesus

The temptations of Jesus in the desert probably reveal his human side as much as any other gospel story.

Though scripture says he was “like us in all things except sin”,we tend to see Jesus unlike us: a miracle worker, an assured teacher, a master of circumstances, someone above it all.

But look at him in the desert, weary, vulnerable, struggling for footing in a dangerous land. Was much of his life really like that?

Think of the demands people made on him. The blind man shouting from the roadside, the paralytic lowered from the roof, the woman pleading for her daughter were just some of the many who pressed their cares on him at every turn. Did he tire of it all?

Is the Evil One’s first suggestion, that he turn stones into bread, a lifelong temptation Jesus had to lay down this everyday burden, the burden of doing good, and rest?

Lord, art thou weary? Is the work

the father trusted to thy care,

his ruined temple to restore;

beyond thy mortal strength to bear?

Is thy omnipotence indeed

too sorely pressed in this our need?

Lord, art thou weary? –Janet Erskine Stuart

And what of the other temptations in the desert? Think how pressured he was by the political and religious establishments of his day to conform to their standards and be quiet. Just go along, they said, and you have a place with us, even a place of honor. Jesus called those powerful people “children of the devil”.

Yet was he tempted to conform and go along just the same?

Even his own disciples were his temptors. Listen to their advice to him: “Leave this place and go up to Judea, so that your followers will see the things you are doing. No one hides what he is doing if he is well known. Since you are doing these things, let the whole world know about you.” ( Jn 7:3-5)

Why waste time here in out-of-the-way Galilee? Use your spectacular power, they told him. You can be a world-wide success.

He must have responded to them as he responded once to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.”

The desert temptations must have been temptations Jesus faced everyday. If they are, how like us he is: tempted to give up under our daily burdens, tempted to compromise and follow the crowd, tempted to seek some extraordinary power rather than the quiet power found in ordinary life.

Can we be like him? Tempted, but still victorious? Will he not deliver us?

Lord Jesus,

we would rather see you strong

than hungry and weak.

Forty days alone,

no miracles, no eager crowds,

no friendly space to buoy you up,

no companion but the Evil One.

This is not the Jordan

where the Father said:

“Here is my Son, listen to him.”

And the Spirit, like a dove,

watched your every step.

Here alone,

you are a weary man,

tired by the daily strain,

at the limits of your strength.

Where would we learn this story,

but from you?

And did you speak of a lifetime

more than forty days

Were your days like ours?

“Turn these stones into bread.”

Were there days like desert stones,

when you walked in waterless places,

and grew weary doing good?

“All these kingdoms will be yours, if…”

Were there days

when promises looked better broken;

right and truth only unreal dreams;

and life secure somewhere else?

“Throw yourself down…”

Were there days

when the journey step by step,

simple words and simple deeds,

hardly seemed to make a difference?

By the mystery of your temptation

in the desert,

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.

The Temptations of Jesus

As supreme ruler in China from 1949-1976  Mao Zedong began the practice of sending young recruits for the Communist party on what was called the  “Long March.”  They retraced the 8,000 miles that Mao and his army took in 1935 through some of the toughest parts of western China to evade their enemies and eventually become the fighting force that conquered China. The recruits were expected to learn from people like Mao and his soldiers who made that difficult journey what made you into a good Communist.

Lent is our “Long March.”  For 40 days, we retrace the 40 years the Israelites journeyed through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land and the great journey that Jesus Christ took to his death and resurrection.

This Sunday we begin that journey with Jesus in the desert after his baptism where he is tempted by the devil. Mark’s gospel describes it succinctly:

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,

and he remained in the desert for forty days,

tempted by Satan.

He was among wild beasts,

and the angels ministered to him.”

The experience of Jesus in the desert mirrors his experience in his life. At his baptism, God calls him his “Beloved Son” and tells us to “listen to him.” He is the Messiah, sent by God to save his people. But in the desert he is tempted by Satan to be a Messiah of another kind.

In his recent reflection on Lent, Pope Benedict said that in the desert Satan “offers Jesus another messianic way, far from God’s plan, because it passes through power, success, dominion and not through the total gift on the Cross. This is an alternative messianism of power, of success, not the messianism of gift and selfless love.”

Matthew and Luke’s gospels speak more than Mark’s gospel does about the temptations of Jesus in the desert. Jesus is hungry; “Turn these stones into bread,” Satan says. You’re above the ordinary laws of life.  From a mountain, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. “Here’s political power,” Satan says. From the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, Satan says “Throw yourself down; you can have religious power.”

Mark’s gospel goes on from his account, saying simply:

“After John had been arrested,

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:

“This is the time of fulfillment.

The kingdom of God is at hand.

Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Instead of Satan’s suggestion, Jesus follows John the Baptist and the way of the prophets. He goes to Galilee, not Jerusalem, and proclaims the gospel of God.

Jesus’ ministry in Galilee has all the ambivalence of the journey of the Jews in the desert. He’s a sign of God’s presence. Like a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night he teaches in the synagogues and along the seashore in Galilee.  He gives manna to the hungry and strengthens the poor and heals the sick. He pitches his tent among them and makes his home with them.

But he finds murmuring and rejection there too. You can hear it in the constant questions and doubts that he faces. Demons cry out against him. Finally, going up to Jerusalem, Jesus faces death; he becomes the sacrifice that saves his people from their sins. As he did in the desert, Jesus accepts his role as the Servant of God in his life–he “ renounces himself and lives for others and places himself among sinners, to take upon himself the sins of the world. “ (Benedict XVI)

So what do we learn from Jesus on our long march of 40 days? Our great temptations will be like his. We like to control things, we like the world to be on our side; we like to control God. His great wish was “ your will be done, your kingdom come.” Our temptation is “my will, my kingdom come.”

Our world is a lot like his. We wish God were more visible, not hidden in signs or limited to believing eyes. We wish for a world more supportive of good values, not a desert where Satan’s voice is strong and wild beasts roam.

This Lent we make the Long March with Jesus Christ who is with us today and all days. He has pitched his tent with us. We’ll have manna to eat and rocks will give water for our thirst. A fire goes before us in darkness and a pillar of cloud marks our path in the day. Angels still minister to us.