REFLECTION CAPSULE: 1st Sunday of Lent


*”Avoiding being trapped by the _”axe of sin”_ by seeking refuge in the _”abundance of God’s Grace!”_*

*(Based on Gen 2:7-9, Rom 5:12-19 and Mt 4:1-11 – _1st Sunday of Lent)_*

Once, the trees of the forest formed an association in order to rebel against the ‘axe’, which had caused much harm to all of their folk.

The trees – The redwood, the teak, the cedar, the oak, the cypress, the Sequoias, the banyan and many others – convoked a meeting…
… and decided that none of them would allow the axe to have wood for its helve (= handle of the axe).

But the axe attended the meeting…
… and pleaded to speak just for a couple of minutes.

The request was granted and the axe spoke:
“I can very well understand the difficulties that all of you have faced, as a result of my nature.
>> And I will definitely not stand in the way of your decision.

But I just have this one suggestion:
” Each of you – be it the redwood or teak or cypress or banyan or any other…
… You look so majestic and splendorous.
>> People look at you, and raise their minds to the Creator for such marvellous creations.

Will you want your beauty and brilliance to be blocked by the small bushes and trivial creepers that grow in front of you and around you?

So just allow me, to be given some wood only for this purpose…
… that I may cut down those irritating and disturbing plants and creepers
>> And thus your grandeur can be beheld without any block!”

This proposal seemed very viable and practical for those majestic trees…
… and thus beguiled…
>> They allowed to give wood to the “axe” – for the ‘good and harmless’ proposal.

Do we need to continue to hear the story further?

Well, you guessed it right…

>> The moment the axe was furnished with wood for its handle…
… it chopped down all the trees – sparing none!

Thus the wisdom of the ages comes to highlight: “Watch for the beginnings of evil…”

The Gospel of the Day, on this first Sunday of Lent, is an account, from the Gospel of St Mathew, of how Jesus resisted temptations and emerged victorious by the power of the Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel of God!

The Gospel passage begins with the verse:
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4: 1)

>> In Jesus, we encounter a God…
… Who has a very human face – sharing in sufferings, partaking in miseries and participating in hardships.
… Who understands us, in our weak moments, consoles us in our painful situations and who empathizes with us in our trials and temptations.

Jesus knows what it is like to struggle with temptations and enticements…
>> Because He Himself was tempted!

Jesus knows what it is like to ward off the beasts of our vices and evil tendencies…
>> Because He Himself was among wild beasts!

Yet, in all His trials, He emerged victorious and triumphant!

The reason?
>> He had a tremendous infilling of the Holy Spirit!
>> He had a unshaken determination to be focused on doing God’s Will!
>> He had a indomitable resolve of being faithful and true to His mission and commitment!

And these reasons of Jesus, are also the techniques for us to overcome the allures of temptations….
> Can I grow continually in the infilling of the Holy Spirit?
> Can I learn, despite any hardships, to constantly seek and do only God’s Will?
> Can I cultivate the steadfastness to be singly focussed on the mission of His Kingdom?

We live in a world which is often, like a wilderness…
… dry in spiritual fervour… heated up with material desires…arid in religious enthusiasm

We live in a world where there are often, many wild beasts…
… ferociously corrupt and unhealthy practices…menacingly abusive evil lifestyles

We need to resist the temptations arising from such situations and stand firm in our focus and commitment to the Lord and His Kingdom.

The account of the ‘First Sin’ in Genesis 3:1-7 clearly gives us the pattern that is followed in every temptation to sin:
1. A sin is proposed
2. The person is either pleased or displeased with the proposal
3. The person either consents or refuses

We see the same pattern being followed in all the three temptations of Jesus (Mt 4:3-10)
>> And we have the same pattern followed in all our temptations as well – whether we are aware or not.

Our Blessed Lord in His beautiful prayer “The Our Father” taught us the remedy to resist temptation…
“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..”

Yes, the easiest recourse to overcome temptation is: “To Pray”

St Francis de Sales says:
“As soon as you feel yourself tempted, follow what little children would do when they see a wolf or a bear…
… they run at once to their parent’s arms or atleast call out to them for help and assistance”

St Paul invites us to seek refuge in the “abundance of God’s Grace” (Rom 5:17)

It is a deeper and purposeful focus on Jesus Crucified that would come to our aid in our moments of temptations.

We also need to, especially, in our ‘smaller’ temptations, which like bees and flies may constantly seek to disturb…
… make sure that we don’t fall into anxiety or worry
… and instead, perform the contrary virtues

>> For vain-glory thoughts, think of the triviality of this earthly life
>> For anger, perform deeds of charity and forgiveness
>> For pride, do acts of humility
>> For lust, dwell on the purity of the Lord)

The Lord today exhorts us to not get caught up in the snares of temptation…instead be victorious and triumphant by the Grace and Power of Him – our Saviour, Model and Master!

Let us not allow any “wood” to be given to the “axe” of sin…
… and thus prevent any eventuality of we “being chopped” of our life in the Lord!

*God Bless! _Live Jesus!_*

*- Fr Jijo Jose Manjackal MSFS*
*_Bengaluru, India_*

*Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS)* – ” _We must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation…_
… _for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind, and is met beyond the threshold, when he knocks!”_


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