Sunday, March 9, 2014

First Sunday of Lent
Today’s readings speak to us of temptation—of the first humans in a garden of delights and of Jesus in a semi-developed society of first-century Palestine. And here’s the thing: the Tempter is good at what he does. He knows how to get our attention. He understands our very real and all-too-common desire to be more than we are. We wish to be a little smarter, a little more popular, a little wealthier – to have, it seems, a little more respect from those around us. To the woman in the garden, he holds out the possibility of attaining an all-seeing knowledge that will make her and her husband god-like in their omniscience. How wonderful it would be, says the serpent, to rise above your lowly station as a finite, vulnerable human being and attain that impervious, all-seeing knowledge of a god. And as a matter of fact, having a perfect “knowledge of good and evil” seems like it could save us a lot of grief. It would be nice not to have to muddle our way through the toughest thickets of good and evil. To glide gracefully through those moments of indecision—What should I major in? Should I stay with this person? How should I spend my money and time? But life does not come with clearly labeled ethical pronouncements—not for the finite human being anyway. We do not “see everything” but instead must navigate our way through the moral labyrinth of life armed only with humility, prayer, and good counsel from others (whose insight is also only partial). Accepting, even embracing, our vulnerability and finitude as human beings seems part of God’s plan. Even Jesus rejects the Tempter’s offer to dismiss hunger with the wave of His hand. Turning stones to bread would not only insulate Him from the risks associated with being human, it would make Him an instant celebrity. But He rejects that pathway and the rock-star status it would bring. He understands that when humans grasp at being god-like, we become perverse—dangerous to ourselves and those around us. In rejecting the Tempter’s three offers at greatness, Jesus, the God-human, shows us what it can be like to embrace our humanness—to accept our vulnerability (as He will do on the cross) thereby remaining open to “the joy of salvation” as the Psalmist describes it.
Dear God, restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and renew a willing spirit within me.

Robert Brenneman, Professor of Sociology

First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15
Second Reading: Romans 10:8-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

Daily Scripture readings can be found online at the USCCB website

1 comment:

Anna said...

Bob, your reflection was so powerful about how good the Tempter is at what he does, playing to our weaknesses of just needing "...a little bit more." Navigating our own way through the human experience with vulnerablity and finitude, yet with Jesus showing us how to embrace it, without embracing the temptation. Thank you so much for your words and the powerful truth they contain.