Many times we hear from fellow Christians of Evangelical denominations that if we accept Jesus as our Lord, we will be saved. Well, this conviction comes from Romans 10:8-13, the Second Reading on this Sunday of Lent. “…for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This is true for all Christians of different traditions—Protestant or Catholic. Our confession of Jesus as our Lord and Savior will lead us to salvation and life. But that confession and belief should lead to real actions and disciplines of love, mercy, prayer, forgiveness, and service to people. No one can refute this argument. We cannot just say, “Jesus, I accept you as my Lord and Savior” without living it through loving relationships with our fellow men and women.
A confession of Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior means that Jesus’ Spirit lives in us; that we entrust our lives entirely to him and allows him to govern our minds and hearts. This is difficult to do in a world of distractions and temptations where other forces dominate our thoughts.
Would this be the reason why on this First Sunday of Lent we recall the temptations of Jesus in the desert, where he was for forty days and nights? In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus himself who became human like us had to prove his fidelity to his Father. It entailed resistance to the devil’s temptations, perseverance, endurance, discipline, and death to his human inclinations so that the glory of his Father would shine and triumph.
Lent involves the three disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. It’s a period of dying to oneself so that the spirit of the Risen Christ would envelop our lives and the world. It‘s overcoming overindulgences with material things and preoccupation with one’s prestige and power. It’s putting a stop to irreverence to God in speech and actions.
Pope Francis expresses this intention of Lent in his argument for fasting: “Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Indeed, in the end, the whole purpose of Lent is to recognize and claim the power of God in our lives and the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s to confess that all that we have and are comes from him, that we don’t claim ourselves as gods, and that submit to his rule and will.
Our First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (26-4-10) reveals this message of submission to God’s rule in Moses’ instruction to the Israelites: “The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar…And having set them [the firstfruits of the products of the soil] before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in his presence.”
On this First Sunday of Lent, it is good then ask ourselves these questions:
What dominate my thoughts and actions? Who rules my life? How is the Spirit of Jesus living in me, in all my intentions, plans, and decisions? How do I guard my speech so that it reveals only goodness, kindness, and reverence for the people around me, under me, and above me?
May this Lent be a period of growth and fruitfulness in God for all of us! Amen.
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.