This past Sunday was the First Sunday of Lent, and the reading (Year B) was taken from Mk 1:12-15:
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.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."
There is so much that can be said about this passage, and how it relates to our own Lenten journey as we unite ourselves with Christ through His temptations in the wilderness. However, nothing that I say could ever match what St. Augustine had to say on the matter (which can be found in the Second Reading in the Office of Readings for the First Sunday of Lent). It is so powerful, and has as much relevance for us today as it had in St. Augustine’s day. So here it is:
[Jesus] made us one with Him when He chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the Gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received His flesh from your nature, but by His own power gained salvation for you; He suffered death in your nature, but by His own power gained life for you; He suffered insults in your nature, but by His own power gained glory for you; therefore, He suffered temptation in your nature, but by His own power gained victory for you.
If in Christ we have been tempted, in Him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ's temptations and fail to think of His victory? See yourself as tempted in Him, and see yourself as victorious in Him. He could have kept the devil from Himself; but if He were not tempted He could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.
What St. Augustine has said is so profound. It is one of those passages which one could tirelessly read over and over again, and each time glean eternal spiritual value. It would take ages to unpack all that he has said. Instead, without diminishing anything else he has stated, here are some of the key highlights of this passage for me, which are so rich that they are worthy of meditation in and of themselves:
- He suffered death in your nature, but by His own power gained life for you
- He suffered insults in your nature, but by His own power gained glory for you
- He suffered temptation in your nature, but by His own power gained victory for you
- If in Christ we have been tempted, in Him we overcome the devil
- Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of His victory?
- See yourself as tempted in Him, and see yourself as victorious in Him.
- If He were not tempted He could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.
In Matt 6:16-18 our Lord tells us that when we fast, we are to do so with a countenance of joy. This makes so much sense when we remember that by truly uniting our fasting to Christ, we experience VICTORY!!! We experience victory in Him, with Him, and through Him.
So, may these words of St. Augustine be to us a constant reminder and source of strength for us as we continue our Lenten journey towards the glorious victory that we experience when we celebrate as Christ’s Body and Bride in the Feast of Easter.