Ritual is an essential element of our lives. This fact has been established by studies carried out in various fields – psychology, sociology, anthropology and theology. ‘Ritual is to be cherished as a life-sustaining system for individuals and their communities.’
New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship.
If we examine our lives, we will discover that hardly a day passes without us participating in some form of ritual associated with events such as our daily meals, home-making, participating in a team sport, the development of a relationship, preparations for a wedding, for birthdays, for Christmas, for Easter. ‘Ritual helps to ‘connect’ us with those aspects of our lives which we consider important. Ritual entails an element of commitment. It challenges us and invites us to live a certain lifestyle which may involve the decision to change our present lifestyle. Rituals are an expression of our innermost search for meaning in our lives. They renew and revitalise us. True ritual is life-giving for those who fully participate.’
The liturgical cycle is rich in ritual experiences but it could be said that we experience the elements of ritual most intensely during the season of Lent. We enter into this season with a sense of purpose and awareness that this is a special time to reflect on ‘the true purpose of all spiritual disciplines, which is to clear away whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us.’
Giving something up for Lent is a custom which may help us do this ‘but this can become simply a way that I show God – and others – how strong I am. It is more about me than my relationship with God.’
‘Today’s Gospel story follows immediately on from Jesus’ baptism. Each of the three temptations touches on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, which had been revealed at his baptism: ‘This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ Secure in the knowledge of his divine identity, Jesus had the strength to overcome the temptations which were temptations to the misuse of power for purposes less than God’s purpose.
‘Do we approach the coming weeks of Lent as an invitation to spend time in the ‘desert’ of quiet times, rediscovering our divine identity? What if our Lenten ritual this year is to reclaim and re-treasure that which is of ultimate importance and infinite value – people, relationships, justice and compassion, forgiveness, beauty, and time to reconnect with whatever renews our spirit and deepens our experience of love? As we reclaim and re-treasure we somehow get ourselves back. We’re more whole, more complete.
Gospel Luke 4:1-13
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time, he ate nothing, and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’
Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time, all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I will give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him. ‘Scripture says; You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’
Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you, and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.