First Sunday of Lent - 5th March, 2017
Liturgical ReflectionGen. 2:7-9, 3:1-7, Rom. 5:12-19, Matt. 4:1-11
The first book of the Jewish-Christian scriptures, Genesis, tells us important truths, put in the context of 2000 years ago in the Middle East.
In modern context, the Genesis tells us that a Being exists who is God-Creator, loving into existence all that is. Human beings, women and men founded families, ideally to love each other as equal companions, and love Creator-God and the environment in which they live. Unfortunately, human beings have a tendency to be destructive of each other, and the environment and blame each other when things go wrong. They sometimes fail to see or respond to God’s love.
Over thousands of years in human history, Creator-God tries to re-create humankind, helping people to know and love God freely, and love and care for each other. Humans are slow learners. Eventually, God sends a man we call Jesus. He is the first human who can ‘puts things right’ by being a role-model for loving ‘as God does’ (see the Gospels and St Paul’s letters). Jesus is God-man, a mystery.
Today’s extract is about temptations that come to all of us in some shape or form. In Matthew’s gospel these are put in the context of Jesus’ time.
Gospel scenario: Jesus is hungry after 40 days fasting in the desert. He is starting his public life. He is aware that God’s Spirit is leading him, and is giving him power, but how is he to use it?
Modern scenario: We are hungry for meaning in our lives and cultures. How can we use our limited power? How can we know and do what is right?
First Temptation: Uncertain of God’s call and facing doubt, the question comes: If God is real, then God’s love and power can work miracles for us – like ‘changing stones into bread’, like freeing us from pain and misery, like achieving goals without effort; like ensuring that we are always right.
Response: Jesus quotes Deuteronomy: ‘We live not by bread alone but by God’s Word’. No quick fix: No using God’s power for personal benefit. We remain wounded healers, needing each other.
Second temptation: God’s power is not recognised and God’s messenger is being ignored. One solution proposed is ‘Call on God publicly and then jump off the tower. Be reckless and loving God will rescue you. The result could be a good PR job for God and yourself’. Think of risk takers today – adolescent behaviour – ‘Drive faster/drink more/take drugs for the kicks... God will protect you.
Response: Deut: ‘You shall not tempt God’ - wrong time and place. This is not what God wills.
Third Temptation: The adult one: Are you feeling powerless as an individual against the ‘kingdoms of the world’ with their presidents, governments, businesses, institutions, churches? Then go and lobby them, agree with their actions, aim for power and wealth: But you have to do their bidding, ‘worship them, idolise them’ ,accept their ‘fake news’.
Response: Deut: ‘You shall worship God alone’.
This Lent, God is calling us to renew our covenant with the Creator-God who loved us into existence. Jesus is our role model. He has shown us the way. His death and resurrection was the beginning of the slow process whereby followers throughout generations would share both his pain and his powers of healing and bringing new life. He asks us to be part of God’s solution – to be ‘good news for the poor’ in whatever way we can in our daily ordinary lives. God’s justice and peace will come in the end.
Rose Mary Kinne op