Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Christian Trials

(1st Sunday of Lent, C)

Each year on this first Sunday of Lent, we hear one of the accounts of Jesus’ fast and temptation in the desert. Today we take courage from Jesus’ defeat of the devil; in our own journey through Lent we imitate his retreat and meditate on the meaning of the trials for us.

The temptations of Jesus in the desert are an argument over what it means to be the Son of God. In the first temptation the devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” We know that Jesus is hungry, because he is fasting. We also know that Jesus is quite willing and able to care for the hungry by bringing forth bread in a miraculous way; think of the very familiar scene of Jesus multiplying the loaves to feed the multitude. He won’t, however, do something similar here. He uses his divine power to take care of the hunger of others, but not his own. “One does not live on bread alone,” Jesus says. His obedience to God is more important than his bodily needs, and he will not sacrifice his trust in his Father in order to satisfy them. This is a strong word for us who desire to become better Christians over the course of this Lent; how can we better put the needs of others before our own? How about the needs of the hungry of this world? If we’re not thinking about their needs, we’re not the Body of Christ we hope to become in Holy Communion.

In the second temptation, the devil offers Jesus all the “power and glory” of the “kingdoms of the world.” All Jesus has to do is worship the devil, to trade his heavenly Father for the ‘prince of this world.’ For Jesus to have power and authority the way this world imagines it, he would have to reject his Father. For the glory and power of the Son of God do not conform to the way this world imagines these things. Think of Jesus on the Cross with the capital charge hanging above him: ‘The King of the Jews.’ He’s not much of a king the way royal power is usually defined; he can’t even move his hands and feet, much less command or control anything. No; the power of the Son of God lies not in his lording it over, controlling, or pushing anybody around, but in the almighty humility by which he places himself below us as our Suffering Servant. So it must be with us, brothers and sisters, if we are to be Christians. From the larger systems of political oppression to the little tyrannies and coercions of ‘control freaks’ in our relationships, workplaces, and churches, the Christian rejects it all. True power lies instead in the courage to place ourselves below others, to become their servant and so make them free.

In the third temptation, the devil invites Jesus to put the Father’s faithfulness to him to the test. “Throw yourself down,” he says, for doesn’t the Bible say that God will protect you? Trust doesn’t work like that, and we all know it from our human relationships. If someone tests our trust or our faithfulness, we’re hurt, because we know that this means we were not really trusted in the first place. So it is with God, brothers and sisters. If we really trust in God’s presence to us, in his desire for our peace and happiness, we should never have to put Him to the test. We should never have to say in our hearts, ‘just do this for me’ or ‘just give me this sign and then I will really believe in You.’ To trust God is to abandon ourselves into his Care. If we can do this, we will also fulfill the calls that come to us in the first two temptations: to look to the needs of others before our own, and to let go of control. During this Lent, may we be about this work of becoming more Christ-like.


4narnia said...

happy first Sunday of Lent, Fr. C! thank you for such an inspirational homily! "TRUST," as you speak about in the last paragraph of your homily is so vital, and, yes, if we have a total trust and totally abandon ourselves to God's Will, caring for others and letting go of control will come naturally. try as we might, we are not in control and the more we "let go and let God," as the saying goes, the more God can and will work His Will in and through us. a total trust in God and a complete openness to the Holy Spirit are important in our spiritual lives. let us all pray for this during this Lent! PEACE! ~tara t~

UB said...

That is my challenge to trust God....Hard sometimes, because we feel lost and ponder, am I on the right road? Am I making the right decision? Will this work out?