Saturday, February 16, 2002
MEDITATION FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT
Today is the Celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection and we are not required to fast from dawn to dusk on this festival day! However, to keep the discipline of Lent intact & on-going we would be wise to allow ourselves only a minimal relief from the rigors of the fasting and abstinence of the forty days. If we take maximum relief, then to get back into genuine fasting and abstinence will be difficult.
The Collect and the Gospel tell us in clear terms that Fasting was used by our Lord, the Man without sin, and ought to be used by us, as people of sin, as we live in union with him by the secret work of Holy Ghost. Fasting can be a good work acceptable to him and can become a means of grace and of communion with our Lord. Only those who are very old, sick, with child or feeding a child, can truly excuse themselves from making this offering of fasting to the Lord Jesus, when the Church asks for it.
The Gospel from St. Matthew (chapter 4) describes the testing of Jesus of Nazareth, who had received at his Baptism a very clear message from God the Father confirming what he already knew in the depths of his spirit, that he is the Messiah and that he is the Incarnate Son of God.
The testing took the form of temptations thrown at him by the enemy of our souls, that fallen angel, Satan, the devil. These temptations presumed that he is the Messiah and the Son of the Father and they offered him short-cuts and easy ways to accomplish his vocation as the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world.
The answers that Jesus gave to these temptations stand as words of grace from his lips to us, his brethren who are the adopted children of God his Father.
“Man shall not live by bread alone” is a message that in a consumer society does not easily penetrate to the inner ear! We think, live and pray as if only material things counted; and of this we need to repent this Lent. And we shall better hear this word if we fast and pray in union with the Lord Jesus.
“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” is a message that in a society where holy order and reverence are discounted also falls on deaf ears. We live and even pray as if we have the right to manipulate God to fit into our pre-conceived ideas of what he should be and do. Of this we also need to repent this Lent. And we shall better hear this word if we fast and pray in union with the Lord Jesus.
“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Here is the positive word and the heavenly command heard most clearly when we fast and pray. We are created to enjoy God and to glorify him forever. In public worship, in private devotion, by our daily vocations, and by the quality of our lives we are called to worship and serve the blessed, holy and undivided Trinity of the Father and his only begotten Son and the Holy Ghost. Only in so doing shall we be fulfilled as creatures with hearts, minds, wills and bodies.
The Epistle from St. Paul provides us with food for thought and meditation in terms of “serving the LORD” through the high privilege of being “fellow workers with him” (2 Cor.6:1ff.). Further, we hear the offer of grace from heaven – “Now is the day of salvation!” It is never too late to repent and believe the Gospel of the Father concerning his Son and salvation in him. And we shall better hear these words if we fast and pray.
In the Collect, that is actually addressed to the Lord Jesus himself and not to the Father, we celebrate the 40 days that our Lord spent for us and for our salvation in the wilderness. He who was without sin was tempted and tested for us who are with sin. He fasted so that his spirit was free to be in full communion with his Father so that as the new Israel and the new Adam he could truly represent us and save us. What Israel and the world had failed to do – to resist and overcame devilish temptation – he actually did, and he did it for us.
In contra to Jesus the sinless one, we as sinners fast in union with the Lord Jesus in LENT to subdue the power of our sinful human nature and to make space and freedom for the work of the Holy Ghost within us, that we may rightly see into our sinful hearts, confess our sins and serve the Lord with a clear conscience and in holiness of life.
The Collect describes inward fasting unto holiness of which bodily abstinence should be the outward and visible sign. We pray this Collect for the whole of Lent in order to be daily reminded that inward fasting led by the Holy Ghost is what fasting is all about.
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon February 14, 2002
Posted by John at 10:40 PM