Lent: Our chance to fall in love with God

Tim Irwin

By Tim Irwin

First Sunday of Lent/March 1

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-4,5-6,12-13,17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

Lent invites us to seek a deeper understanding about our lives. This brings us to a brief discussion of context frames. When someone shares information with us, we understand it by putting it into context. If you said to me, the Cubs beat the Cardinals I would frame that statement in the context of a Major League baseball game. I would not be sitting dumbfounded wondering why some juvenile bears assaulted some small red birds.

Every bit of information we receive has to be processed through a context frame in order to be understood. Learning and applying context frames happens automatically. So, we may not be cognizant of the fact that context frames change over time. Not so long ago, a mouse referred to a rodent not a laptop accessory. Context frames also vary from one culture to another. The Inuit people have a sled-full of words for snow. This also explains why the Church relies on her Scripture scholars to help us understand the context frames of biblical times.

The First Sunday of Lent features a Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus. Over the course of the story, Jesus shifts the context frames from a pursuit of earthly treasures to an invitation for us to seek the treasures of heaven.

THREE CHALLENGES ANSWERED

The devil challenges our Lord: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Jesus hasn’t eaten in 40 days, so eating would really feel good. The Lord answers, “It is written: ‘One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” In other words, feeling good is not the same thing as being good, a point often lost on us today.

The First Sunday of Lent features a Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus. Over the course of the story, Jesus shifts the context frames from a pursuit of earthly treasures to an invitation for us to seek the treasures of heaven.

The second temptation occurs when the devil asks Jesus to take a flying leap off the parapet of the Temple. A parapet was a thick wall that ringed a roof in order to provide defensive positions in an attack. Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”

Initially, a fallen angel quoting Scripture seems to make for a compelling argument. But then Jesus shifts the context frame revealing the devil’s error. Jesus says, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” If anybody had a legitimate belief that he is too important not to be saved, it would be Jesus, but he resists the temptation to amplify his own self-importance. Yet another point often lost on us these days.

Finally, Satan took Jesus up to a very high mountain, and showed him all of the wealth, power and honor that this world has to offer, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Jesus responded, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” The happiness found in wealth, prestige, and power simply can’t complete us. We need God, again a point sometimes lost on us.

Lent is a time to shift from the context frames of the here and now to those of the hereafter. Jesus offers us his empowering invitation to understand this life for what it is. This is our chance to fall in love with God. Shifting context doesn’t happen quickly or easily. We will need an ongoing commitment to Christ through prayer, sacrament and service. Maybe that’s why Lent lasts for a season?

Tim Irwin teaches theology and philosophy at Notre Dame High School in Peoria. He is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton.

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