Homily — First Sunday of Lent A 2-10-08
Command that these stones become loaves of bread.
Throw yourself down.
All these (kingdoms of the world) will be yours.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in his recent Book “Jesus of Nazareth,” comments that these Three Temptations that Satan unsuccessfully tempts Jesus with are all things Jesus ultimately ends up doing with God the Father’s full approval.
For example, Jesus doesn’t create bread for the devil in the desert, but a few months later Jesus does create bread to feed the 5000 in the desert, and at the end of His life at the Last Supper He creates the Bread of Life which has fed billions of people and will feed us in a few moments.
Jesus doesn’t jump from the highest tower in the area to prove the devil wrong, but later on, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus does freely and willfully take a jump – into the hands of those who will torture and crucify Him, confident that God the Father would deliver Him and Raise Him to Glory.
And finally, Jesus refuses the offer to buy from Satan all the Kingdom’s of the (earth) in their Magnificence for the price of His Soul, but by the end of the Gospel we hear Jesus say All power on earth has been given to me, not by Satan but by my Father. And not only all power on earth, but better still all power in Heaven as well.
So how can the same three things be sinful temptations for Jesus in the desert, but virtuous actions for Him later on? The simple answer is that God the Father wanted His Son Jesus to wait to get all these things.
If Jesus came to earth and immediately gave everyone in the world an unlimited supply of bread, it would solve the problem of physical hunger in the world, but would leave unsolved the more serious problem of spiritual hunger in the world. Instead, God the Father wants Jesus to wait for the right moment to work that miracle, for the time when 5000 men, not counting women and children, are so on fire with Jesus’ preaching that they leave everything behind and follow Him miles into the desert to hear more of His Gospel. That day the Gospel says They ate and were satisfied, not only bodily but spiritually as well. And that army of people left the desert that day each with a greater concern for and commitment towards helping the poor and needy of the world.
Regarding the second temptation, God the Father didn’t want Jesus to perform miracles just to anyone, as if flashy miracles were an end in themselves. God wanted Jesus to wait for opportune times, when people’s hearts would respond to the miracle in the correct way. Miracles in the Gospel are given as a reward for faith or an incentive to greater faith; remember how Jesus performed no miraculous healings in his home town of Nazareth because of their lack of faith, and also how He appeared after His Resurrection only to believers.
And lastly, while Jesus could very well have called down St. Michael and the Army of Angels to battle and defeat Satan right then and there in the desert that first Lent, God the Father wanted Jesus to wait, for He wanted to show us humans the depth of His great love for us by having His Son undergo His Passion and Death and then His Glorious Resurrection.
And so that 40 days in the Desert was a time for Jesus of what is called “Waiting on the Lord.”
A lot of times, when we sin it is simply a failure of us to “wait on the Lord”. We want pleasure now, and so we commit a sin of greed, or gluttony, or lust; while if we had resisted that temptation, God would have shortly afterwards given us what our hearts really desired – a greater portion of His love. Or we want rest from our labors now, and so we commit a sin of sloth (spiritual laziness) and fail to rouse ourselves to be vigilant in prayer and penance; while if we had resisted that temptation, God would have refreshed our weary souls and given them rest. And so on with the other deadly sins.
Lent is the time when we go into the desert with Jesus to wait upon the Lord with Him. And we learn to wait upon the Lord through the three things Jesus talked to us about this past Wednesday: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are disciplines which will help us see the shallowness of the devil’s promises of immediate gratification, and to see the richness of God’s promises if we say no to sin and yes to Him.
May this Lenten Season help us to Wait on the Lord, so that when Easter comes at the end of these 40 days, we will be ready to receive the great blessings God has in store for us.