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Lent As More Than Giving Something Up: Reflecting on Luke 4:1-13

By Audrey Carroll
Photo Credit: Tim Wade

Scripture:

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.
He ate nothing during those days, 
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God, 
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him, 
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”
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.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written:
You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve.”

Then he led him to Jerusalem, 
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
and:
With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
When the devil had finished every temptation, 
he departed from him for a time.

Reflection:

In this week’s Gospel, we learn about the Temptation of Jesus. After being led around the desert by the Holy Spirit and fasting for forty days, Jesus encounters a series of temptations from the devil. In the end, the devil does not break Jesus’ faith despite the fact that Jesus is tired and hungry.

We can use this Gospel passage as a guiding example of how to live during this Lenten season. Christians are called to resist temptation and partake in some form of fasting for the forty days of Lent to experience spiritual transformation and renewal.

Growing up, I was always taught to “give something up” for Lent, like candy or social media. This common practice of a 40-day sacrifice is an attempt at developing positive habits or ridding ourselves of negative ones.

While giving up certain things or making certain commitments during Lent can definitely be influential in spiritual transformation, I can’t help but wonder if our Lenten practices should be less superficial than this. When Jesus was fasting in the desert, he faced some of the most intense temptations possible. During Lent, we must further challenge ourselves to be confronted at our most vulnerable point in order to have a full transformation and renewal of faith.

Luke’s Gospel shows us that we are at our most vulnerable when we crave worldly possessions like hunger and power. What path we decide to take in these moments will either lead us to God or result in giving in to temptation.

During this Lenten season, we should challenge ourselves to be vulnerable. It is not easy, but neither was Jesus’ sacrifice for us. What other way is there to fully experience a transformation of heart and soul than allowing them to be fully exposed to the world? That takes a great amount of strength and willpower and, in the end, maybe more rewarding than simply giving something up.