The First Sunday of Lent and I hope that everyone is well, getting into the reflective, prayerful spirit of this season.
Today’s Gospel from Luke is the story of the devil tempting Jesus in the desolate, lonely desert of Palestine. He puts in front of Jesus visions of food (Jesus had been fasting!); power and a presumption that God’s action can be dictated by our desires. Jesus gives us an example of how to resist temptations- which come when we are usually weakened- and reminds us that the Holy Spirit can give us the necessary strength.
Temptations are many, individual and social, and this we realize from life experience. However, I believe that one of the most prevalent and subtle temptations in modern America is to view humanity as a problem. We are constantly bombarded by hucksters (political and media shills) who cavalierly predict the end of the world (based on models which masquerade as ‘scientific’ but are grounded on very ideological assumptions). The common theme of all these prophets of doom is that people are destructive to the environment not due to what is done but solely by existing. Added to this are the groups who label ‘the other’ as the source of all evil, whether immigrants, white males, black men Catholics or Muslims. People are the problem or so we are told; a scary proposition when people come to view human life not as a gift but a burden on the earth, society or others. But nothing could be further from the truth. For Christians, we see human life as precious, made in the image of God, with each individual a unique combination of family history, genetics, social and spiritual memories. Humanity is not the problem, even if some activities might be.
The message of Jesus and the Church is clear that ‘humanity is not the problem’ as we are created in the image of God to love and celebrate’ even though we can sin and sometimes through mass hysteria act horridly. So how does this relate to Jesus’ temptations? In order to live a fully human life, as well as a Christian one, we need hope, a grounding that the future is in God’s hands which are always open to love, welcome, and heal with the power to surprise us as societies as well as individuals. But we need to constantly deepen our relationship to Christ, avoid sin and the temptation to destroy life, ourselves, and others. This can only be seen as possible if we see the inestimable value of individual life and hope in God’s infinite love.
Mission Doctors in their service of healing the sick in Third World nations bring hope; a hope of a future, a family, of relationships and love. Please pray for this work and assist them financially as you are able. God bless your Lenten journey.