Deuteronomy 26: 4-10
Romans 10: 8-13
Luke 4: 1-13
Note: The Catholic parishes of Beverly, MA, are part of the first phase of reorganizing the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston into 2 to 3 parish collaboratives, under one pastor and pastoral team.
Today’s Gospel reading continues the story after the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Jesus has experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon Him, has heard the Father confirming that he is the Son of God. He must have been on a spiritual high; he is “the man.” Now we see the Spirit leading him into the desolation that is the desert. We are told that Jesus fasted for forty days, and was “hungry.” Now, those of us who are dieters, or failed dieters, we may think we know what it means to be hungry, but that is nothing compared to the hunger Jesus must have experienced, and what the effects it must have been to his body. This combination of hunger and surviving the desert, must have definitely taken him out of his comfort zone. It is then that the devil challenges Jesus, tempts Jesus. He first tempts Jesus to change a stone into bread. Then he tries to have Jesus doubt his own power as the Messiah, by accepting power from the devil, at the price of worshiping him, rather than the Father. Finally, the devil tries to have Jesus get the Father to confirm that He is the Son, by saving him from a fall. All these actions, changing stone into bread, accepting power from another, seeking the Father’s reaffirmation; these are all self-centered actions. And Jesus came not for himself but for others.
So Jesus drew on the divine power that was in him all the time, which was and is at the center of his being. The Evangelist Luke expresses this power by having Jesus quote the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the power of the Word of God that will drive the devil away.
Now, all of us experience temptation at different times, and in different ways. We are tempted to reach for that cookie on the plate, even when our mother says not to. We are tempted to reach for the game boy, rather than doing our homework. We are tempted to join in the gossip about a coworker, rather than defend him or her. And sometimes we are tempted to give in to despair, because life has gotten so hard, so dark. In moments of temptation, great or small, we all need to turn to Him who has experienced it himself, who knows what we are going through. If we open ours hearts to Him, if we let His word take hold of us, have faith in Him, we will ignore the temptation, have hope and not be put to shame.
Lent is a time when the Church challenges us; through fasting, increased prayer, and almsgiving, giving of ourselves for others; to leave our comfort zone, to set sail on uncharted spiritual waters. And now this year, as a parish community, as a community of Catholic believers here in Beverly, we are being asked to go on into even more uncharted waters. Some of us may be tempted to withdraw within ourselves and not participate in the process. As the process moves on, for whatever reasons, some of us may be tempted to jump ship. And on top of all that, we hear that Pope Benedict is resigning, and now the way forward looks even more uncertain, the horizon more shrouded in fog, in uncertainty. What I ask of all us to do is to trust in Him, who built the Bark, the Ship of St. Peter, trust in him who gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom, and asked him to care for the Lord’s sheep; believe in Him who at a word, calm the winds and the waves. He will bring us to safe harbor.