for Sunday, March 13, 2011
These three temptations presented to us in the Gospel today speak of
hunger, spirituality and power. All of us recognize the challenge of
hunger. When we are hungry, we want to eat. Jesus had been fasting for 40
days and clearly he was hungry. He had to turn to His Father in order to
resist the pangs of hunger and the offer of food.
We humans hunger after many things, not just food. We have all kinds of
appetites and Lent is a good time to recognize the appetites that run our
lives or are most important in our lives. For some people, it is the
hunger for recognition. For others, it may be a hunger to be better than
others. Another person may hunger for an emotional relationship. Some
people hunger after money. Whatever appetites we have, we are more able to
work with them for God's glory if we recognize them and how they work
Spirituality is a wonderful gift for all of us. On the other hand, we
must be sure that it is Gospel spirituality and not something else. The
basic spirituality of the Gospel is loving others and being willing to
serve them, even when they reject us or despise us. The devil in today's
Gospel is pushing a spirituality of the miraculous. Surely God will save
the Lord. That is never in question. But the Lord recognizes that His
Father wants Him to act normally and to embrace a normal spirituality. If
God has not given a very special gift to someone, and a gift that is
verified by others as being truly of God, then that person should never
presume to put God to the test. That would be like taking off in an
airplane and believing that God will show me how to pilot it even when I
have never had a single lesson. God can do the miraculous but that is his
free gift to us. When we insist on the miraculous, we misunderstand God.
Power is such an illusion and such a temptation. Jesus tells us that the
only real power is the power of love. The devil offers a different kind of
power, the power of dominion. Dominion is when I insist that you work for
my good rather than my looking for your good. True love is a willing of
the good of the other person in preference to my own good. True love
always accepts sacrifices on my part for the good of the other person.
Dominion expects the other person to sacrifice themselves for me.
The first reading, from the Book of Genesis, simply confirms that from the
beginning there has been this tension among humans about whether we really
want to serve or do we want others, including God, to serve us.
The second reading, from the Letter to the Romans, is clear that the only
way to regain the spiritual and moral freedom that Adam and Eve had before
their fall is to obey Jesus Christ and live in love.
May this Lent help each one of us understand what we must do to love more
and to live in Christ.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: