First Sunday of Lent
Theme: Obstacles to Christian Unity and Inter-Religious Dialogue
Every year on the First Sunday of Lent, we meditate on the temptations of Jesus by the devil. Matthew narrates how Jesus is led into the desert where he fasts and prays for forty days and forty nights. Then, the devil comes to tempt Him three times but Jesus does not succumb to the temptations of the devil.
Temptations are not sins but occasions, enticements to commit sins. As Jesus is tempted by the devil but does not give in to temptations, so we are challenged to do the same every day especially during this season of Lent.
This Year of Ecumenism, Inter-religious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples we are invited to foster Christian unity through dialogue and harmony with people belonging to different religions, faiths and cultures. But, as we work for unity with our brothers and sisters from different religious and cultural traditions, we are confronted with temptations, which may make it difficult for us to establish the culture of dialogue and communion with them.
There are three important guiding principles of inter-religious dialogue and harmony among people. These are: 1) SINCERITY 2) SENSITIVITY 3) SOLIDARITY. These three “S” can be achieved through the acronym C.A.R.E.
C - stands for COURAGE to reach out to our brothers and sisters from different religions, cultures and traditions.
A - stands for APPRECIATION of what we have in common e.g. family and social values of peace, justice, freedom, goodness.
R - stands for RESPECT of our differences
E - stands for EXAMPLE that we give in order to walk together as one family, guided by the common good of our society. These are the concrete paths to Christian unity and dialogue. But the devil and the world tempt us to take different paths: the paths of individualism, relativism, exclusivism and secularism.
We combat the temptation of indifference, of individualism or exclusivism by dialogue with God, creation and other people. “Dialogue becomes prayer. A prayer that does not distinguish, separate or marginalize.” (Pope Francis)
We overcome the temptation of practical relativism, which consist in acting and making decisions as if God does not exist by prostrating ourselves before Him in humility and reminding ourselves that God alone should we worship and serve and not anyone or anything in this world! This God whom we adore and serve is not a Catholic property but the God of all. Thus, we must be sensitive to the workings of God outside the Catholic Church. As we foster Christian unity, we should not rely on what we can and the conditions we set but on what God can do with us and through us.
We triumph over the temptation of secularism, which consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but personal glory and well-being by submitting to a power greater and bigger than us: the power of God!
May the Lenten observance enable God’s grace to enter our lives and conquer all the temptations we face in building bridges of communion with our brothers and sisters.