First Sunday of Lent

March 1, 2020

GN 2:7-9; 3:1-7/ROM 5:12-19 OR 5:12, 17-19/MT 4:1-11

If there remains any doubt that Lent has begun, today’s readings will dispel it. I want to lift out two nuggets from these lessons which might serve as food for reflection and prayer here in the early days of Lent.  

First nuggetOn Ash Wednesday, our foreheads were marked with ashes in the sign of the cross with these words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The reading from Genesis provides a source for this liturgical action. Like a child with her Play Dough, God forms the human being out of the dust of the earth, in Hebrew, adam” from “adamah,” literally, the earthling from the earth. Then God breathes into that earthling God’s own breath and it comes alive. As for the earthling, so for us: To live is to breathe with the breath of God. Every breath that we take is God breathing in, with, and through us.  

Second nugget: In the Gospel, we hear Matthew’s account of Jesus testing/temptation in the desert. What immediately precedes this is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism where God’s Spirit descends on him and where he hears a voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” It is this same Spirit of God which leads Jesus into the wilderness where he is tempted. If we think that following Jesus is all sweetness and light, this text would suggest “Not so fast.” The ecstatic moment of his baptism is followed immediately by an intense period of testing.  

The journey of faith, while full of great joy, is often hard work. Like exercising our bodies and our minds, the disciplines we assume during Lent are to strengthen us for this journey. I have a friend who says not “I have to work out,” but “I get to exercise.” We are disciples of Jesus, breathing with the breath of God, who get to strengthen our faith by practicing the disciplines of Lent. 

My prayer is that we will accept the invitation offered to us by this season of grace to breathe deeply and to toughen up our souls so that when the tests come, as we know they will, we will be in shape to meet them. 


Bob Shoemake
Director, UST Selim Center for Lifelong Learning