First Sunday of Lent
    March 6, 2022 Cycle C

           by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvium Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B., Chaplain,
        Saint John Paul II National Shrine
             Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

As today’s Collect prayer says, Lent is a time given to us “that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that Christian life is warfare. As Saint Augustine wrote, “Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.” In the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul declares: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph 6:12).

We heard in the Gospel that Jesus defeated the Devil in the wilderness.  Jesus came to this world to conquer Satan and his dominion over the world: “Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, ‘I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish’” (Lk 4:5–6).

The kingdom of Satan is a realm of fear, hatred, death and darkness, while the kingdom of God is the empire of calmness, love and life.

Jesus came to deliver us from the slavery of the Enemy. He came to remove the heavy yoke imposed by the ancient serpent over all mankind.

The experience of the deliverance of the People of God from slavery in Egypt is a promise of Jesus’ salvation. In the Old Testament, Israel saw God’s power in action many times. As today’s first reading says, “He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country” (Dt 26:8). Every generation needs to ask the Lord to see his power, signs and wonders.

In our day, we need to experience the power of God in our lives more than ever. In Christ, we truly pass from darkness to light. From slaves of Satan, we become sons and daughters of God. As Saint Paul says in the second reading, “for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rm 10:9).

The riches of Christ are hidden but they are real. The knowledge of the riches hidden in Christ enriches our lives, fills them with fullness. As Saint Paul says, “the Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rm 10:12–13). Faith changes our lives for the better.

To be saved means to be restored in the totality of our person: mind, body, soul and spirit. In Christ we become new creatures. He teaches us, forgives us, heals us and delivers us from evil. As the responsorial psalm says, “Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name. […] I will deliver him and glorify him” (Ps 91:14–5).

Jesus teaches us that we can triumph over temptation and the power of Satan through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the practice of fasting: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil” (Lk 4:1).

May the Holy Spirit come down upon us and fill us with his power and grace. May he strengthen us in our fight against the Enemy. May he deliver us and the whole world in this present hour from all the power of evil. May he give us the grace to conquer all our temptations in Christ. May he make us grow in our understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.  Amen.