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Leonard McMahon speaks about the responsibility of the spiritual life

Mar 06, 2022


To find out more about Lenoard McMahon and his work, visit Common Ground Dialogue

This is a special interview, part two in a seven-part series on Lent. Some of our discussion explores the reading for the first Sunday in Lent. I've included the reading below (NRSV) along with some questions to help you reflect on the meaning of the reading, Lent, and what it means to be a contemplative. 


March 6th — The First Sunday in Lent

Luke 4:1-13

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’

11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.


Questions for consideration:

Before you begin to reflect with the community on the reading today, let’s situate ourselves within the reading.

  • Read the passage, read the questions below, then read the passage again.
  • Sit for a few minutes and allow yourself to enter into the scripture.
  • If you are not familiar with some of this information, don’t worry just rest in what you do understand.
  • What is your experience with the temptations of bread (bodily appetites), power, and pride?
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness
  • In the Gospel of Luke it says that Jesus was "led" by the Holy Spirit, but in Mark it says "the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness." How does this change the story to imagine Jesus being led instead of driven?
...for forty days he was tempted by the devil
  • The devil (or the Adversary according to some translations) tempts Jesus with bread (a symbol of all the things we hunger for), the kingdoms of the world (power), and a challenge to prove how special he is (pride). What might Jesus gain by accepting the offers? What would Jesus lose? What does know about himself after this experience that he didn't know before?
  • People experience their own personal wilderness when they face life-threatening illnesses, job insecurity, divorce, mental illness, bankruptcy, death, addiction, and many other life-altering ordeals. Is the wilderness a place they are driven to or are they led there? What do people encounter in the wilderness? What challenges do they face? What is possible in the wilderness?
  • What do you know about the wilderness? What hungers do you want fed? What powers do you covet? What recognitions do you want? What has the wilderness taught you that you might not learn any other way. 
  • How has the experience of the wilderness helped you be responsible for your spiritual life?

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