Reflection: First Sunday of Lent – Matthew 4:4

‘Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matt 4:4)

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God is good, in faith we know he gives us everything we need. With this sure hope we begin this Lent pondering what we might learn from this Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 4:1-11). There are two themes (among many) I would like to explore: the importance of Scripture, and what it means to enter a wilderness. 

In the wilderness Jesus stands firm against the temptations of Satan, using scripture as a weapon. We too can arm ourselves with this living gift of scripture to guide us every day to an encounter with Jesus himself. 

In this Sunday’s reading we encounter the power of Jesus’ word – ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’ (Matt 4:4). How, this Lent, will the words which come from God’s mouth be the most essential part of your day, the thing from which you draw life, the place where you encounter Jesus himself? 

As Southwark’s Agency for Evangelisation and Catechesis, we meet in person at the beginning of each week, always beginning with a period of prayer, most often Lectio Divina. This prayer is without fail a source of joy, hope, inspiration and a place of encounter with Jesus. It prepares us for the work that we are called to do. As a team we have come to see that it is the word that sustains us, inspires us, humbles us and helps us see more clearly what we need to do as we work supporting evangelisation, catechesis and formation in Southwark. Our encounter with scripture helps us to pray for wisdom, and the ability to do our job right, to strip back our own personal preferences and learn to trust each other as we seek after the Lord together.   

When Jesus enters the wilderness, he does so to spend time in prayer with his Father – something he did repeatedly during his ministry. As we enter our Lenten ‘wilderness’, I encourage you to do so in order to seek an encounter with Jesus, the Word. What can we do to still some of the busyness of our lives in order to encounter the Lord every day? Perhaps consider using this Lent as a time of retreat into scripture – a time to build and nourish your inner spiritual life. 

Although it is good and necessary to find time for quiet and solitude, it is important to remember that our faith is not a private journey. It is meant for sharing with others. In doing so, those you encounter will help you become more aware of God’s endless and generous outpouring of grace into your life to enable you to continue to answer His call. 

We can all identify with moments in our lives where we enter a ‘wilderness’, a place where we lack spiritual consolation. For because ‘we walk by faith, not by sight’, we perceive God as ‘in a mirror, dimly’ and only ‘in part… our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.’ (CCC 164) 

When our faith is shaken, and we are vulnerable we can be tempted to begin to believe that we are alone and that we are not loved. As Christians we know this can never be true for we are never alone and we are always loved. When we are tempted in our ‘wilderness’ if we have developed a love for Scripture we can be sure that we can turn to the word of God to be comforted, for ‘your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path’ (Psalm 119:105). 

For we are an Easter people. As you ponder the image of Christ in the Wilderness that accompanies this post, remind yourself of what comes next – baptism in the Jordan, with the appearance of the Holy Spirit, the calling of the disciples, many miracles and vast crowds, the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and then the ‘wilderness’ of the cross, followed by the glory of the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  

Jesus, who is love, was never alone in the wilderness. In your Lenten ‘wilderness’ you are never alone, and you are always loved. God is good, in faith we know he gives us everything we need. This Lent I encourage you to spend time increasing your familiarity with Scripture, through prayer. Your time with scripture is an essential part of your Christian journey, for we do ‘not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’ (Matt 4:4).

Mrs Ingrid La Trobe

Mrs Ingrid La Trobe works for the Agency for Evangelisation and Catechesis in the Archdiocese of Southwark as the Advisor for Family, Child & Youth Catechesis. She has over 20 years of extensive parish catechetical experience supporting families passing on their faith to their children. Married for over 30 years and a mother of five, Ingrid is an avid walker, completing the Camino Frances in 2016, and the Camino Portugues with her 3 sons in 2019. She frequently walks parts of the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury which runs through her parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, Sevenoaks.