This week’s Gospel, Mt. 4:1-11, recounts Jesus temptation in the wilderness. He has just been baptized by John and heard the voice from heaven tell him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Right after this, Jesus is led by the Spirit in to the desert to tempted. These temptations will serve the design of the Spirit. The devils own tool of temptation will be used for the Spirit’s purpose. That purpose: to clarify for Jesus (and us) what it means to be a beloved child of God.
So what do we learn from these temptations? Jesus is tempted by the devil to think that being a beloved child of God means:
He will have his fill and never be hungry (Mt. 4:3-4).
He will be safe and never be hurt (Mt. 4:5-7).
He will have power or his life and the lives of others (Mt. 4:8-10).
But Jesus has a deep sense of what it means to be a beloved child of God. The Spirit dwells within him and as the Eternal Son of God, he knows who he is. The forty days of desert fasting have prepared him to withstand these temptations. He is human. He fully accepts his humanity and as a human being, he knows that he will:
Experience emptiness and hunger
Experience fear and suffering
Experience powerlessness over his own life and those whom he loves.
Prayer, fasting, and an openness to the Spirit have taught him these lessons. The Spirit has taught him that these experiences will not separate him from God. God’s beloved children will suffer, but the Spirit of God will not abandon them.
As we begin our lenten journey may our prayer and fasting teach us the same lesson. Through our baptism we are united to Jesus and because of this we are beloved children of God. Nothing can separate us from His love. Thanks be to God!
One day St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross met for a meal. Grapes were brought in. “I’m not going to eat any,” said John of the Cross. “Too many people have none.” Teresa answered, “I, on the contrary, am going to eat them, to praise God for these grapes.” Their conversation mirrors one of the tensions of the contemporary Church.
Br. Roger of Taize
Lent: forty days granted us in which we marvel at a love too great for words.
Br. Roger of Taize
- “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
This past weekend I had the pleasure of being with the young members of our community who are preparing to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. We were on retreat together at Camp Tekawitha. During the retreat we played games, listened to music, prayed, celebrated the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, reflected on God’s love for us and his call to discipleship. It was time away from the daily activities of life to reflect on who we are as disciples of Jesus. It was a time of prayer, a time of play, and a time of reflection. We were building our youth (and even this old Parish Director) for the future.
Many of the more powerful moments of the retreat came through the witness talks given by members of our community. I am amazed at how faith-filled this community of disciples is. Several of you came up to Camp Tek to share your experience of being a disciple with these young people. That is how we build our youth for the future. By honestly sharing our gifts and struggles we grow deeper as disciples. Together we build our community. Together we face the future.
And the future (like the present) needs strong disciples. We need disciples who are clear-headed enough to see the challenges facing us. We need disciples who are strong enough to resist the temptations facing us. Most importantly, we need disciples who can love radically enough to overcome whatever we face. We need disciples who build our life on the rock of Jesus’ teaching (cf. Mt. 7:24).
The youth of our parish are seeking authentic faith. They are wise and compassionate beyond their years. They are concerned about the future. They are filled with the Spirit of God.
Together with these wonderful candidates for Confirmation, we are building our community for the future. As disciples, we build each other up and face the future together.