A few weeks ago, on the First Sunday of Lent, the reading from Luke’s Gospel described Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Satan tried to entice Jesus to misuse his divine power to satisfy his hunger. (Luke 4:3) Then, Satan offered Jesus the opportunity to seize political power over the whole world. (Luke 4:6-7) Finally, Satan tried to trick Jesus into performing a miracle for Jesus’ personal benefit. (Luke 4:9-11)
At the end of three failed attempts to lead Jesus into sin, the Gospel says about Satan the tempter, that he “departed from Jesus until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) This Sunday we read about that “opportune time” for which Satan waited.
When the time for his suffering and death approached Jesus was tempted again. He knew the fate that awaited him, and he prayed that he might escape death. However, he never wavered in his commitment to God’s will; he overcame temptation again. (Luke 22:42)
Jesus remained loyal to God, even when his closest friends abandoned him. (Luke 22:60-61) As he hung on the cross, he went so far as to forgive those who had betrayed and executed him. (Luke 23:34) Because of Jesus’ faithfulness to God, the “opportune time” that Satan was looking forward to became an opportune time for Jesus to reinforce all that he had said and done during his ministry.
Jesus’ Passion and death, and our celebration of it, are an opportune time for us. These past five and half weeks of Lent have been preparing us for an opportune moment: Holy Week and the renewal of our Baptismal vows. The penances that we perform during Lent are not intended to be an exercise in patience or a public display of self-control. The discipline of Lent exists in order to prepare us, communally and individually, for the renewal of Baptism vows on Easter. The past five and a half weeks have been leading to this week, Holy Week, the opportune time for our re-commitment to be disciples of Jesus.
What were your expectations for this Lenten season? What did you hope to experience in the penitential practices of Lent? The expectation built into the Church’s liturgical calendar is that Lent is a call to spiritual renewal and an opportunity to grow in faith. Over the coming week we will walk with Jesus, from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through his passion and, ultimately, out of the tomb.
I hope that you take the time, or make the time, to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, the Commemoration of the Passion on Friday and the Easter Vigil on Saturday. The three days of Easter are the opportune time presented to us by God’s mercy; these three days are our annual opportunity to be renewed in spirit, strengthened in faith and restored in hope. By taking on the weakness of human nature, and experiencing temptation, Jesus rescued us from our sins. At the end of our Lenten fast, we celebrate the greatest Christian feast as a reminder of the eternal banquet to come.