The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent is always the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Immediately after His Baptism, the Holy Spirit leads the Lord into the desert, where He fasts and prays, preparing Himself for His upcoming mission of salvation. It is in that radical solitude where Satan tempts Jesus to turn aside from the Father’s will and to misuse His divine powers for His own comfort and glory. If the devil can already lead the Son of God astray at this early juncture, he will have scored a significant victory against the loving plan of the Father. Jesus rebukes Satan, refusing to even entertain the temptations, remaining true to His fundamental identity and purpose.
This experience of Christ in the desert teaches us that whenever power is not channeled in the service of love, it becomes selfish, inward-looking and even demonic. The tremendous gifts of knowledge, love, faith, time, energy, money and relationships that we have received are not meant simply for our private enjoyment or comfort. The Lord consecrates us to be servants of the Gospel, to proclaim the victory of the resurrection and to serve the needs of our brothers and sisters. Lent is a beautiful time for us to seek a deeper conversion through the ancient practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These spiritual actions open us up to deeper relationships with God, each other and our truest self.
Being a Vincentian allows us to put into practice on a regular basis the lessons which Jesus teaches us from His time in the desert. Our greatness does not lie in the trophies which this world offers us. Power, wealth, possessions, popularity, and comfort will all slip away from us, but what we do and who we become in the Lord and for the poor and suffering will endure forever. Treasure put at the service of love blesses the Church and the world. Time given to the poor will endure in the heart of God forever. Energy spent in the proclamation of Jesus’ saving Gospel produces eternal fruit.
How blessed we are to be in the Saint Vincent de Paul Society! We are a band of disciples, gathered in the vision of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise, formed by the thought of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, led by the Holy Spirit to put the Gospel into saving action. Every time we choose to love another person, especially those in most need of our time and attention, God powerfully uses us to unleash the glory of the Paschal Mystery, the wonder of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We may feel tempted at times to give up hope, when our charitable efforts seem to bear no fruit or are not appreciated, or when our work for justice and social transformation seems painfully slow. We bear in mind the Parable of the Sower, who lavishly casts seed even on the rough and barren ground, wanting to give every possibility for vibrant life and renewed hope. Remember that no sacrificial gift, act of charity or merciful word goes unnoticed by the Lord. It is for Him and the Kingdom of God that we set out in the service of God’s poor and suffering. Thank you for your radiant witness to the power and love of the risen Christ, the One who turned away from comfort and glory to wash the feet of the disciples, to give Himself to us in the humility of the Eucharist and to die on the cross for our sins. We give witness to and extend all that He has done. Have a blessed Lent!
Bishop Donald J. Hying
National Episcopal Advisor