First Sunday of Lent – 05-03-2017

In the last few Sundays I have spoken about the blessedness of Jesus. Where did Jesus first realize his blessed identity? It happened at his baptism at River Jordan where God, the heavenly Father publicly revealed that He was God’s beloved or blessed Son. This divine acclamation or divine complement left a deep impression on him. Throughout his life He was mindful of His blessed identity even in his temptation in the desert.

In the first reading, we have the second creation story where we see God creating man out of dust and breathing into the man’s nostrils His own divine Spirit or breath. Besides that God gave them the opportunity to enjoy the comforts of life in the Garden of Eden. The first creation story says that God created human beings according to the image and likeness of God. All these Positive things show what a blessed couple they were.  But unfortunately they forgot their blessedness before God and fell to the temptation of the serpent.

Let us see how Jesus confronted the Devil in the desert. This happened immediately after his baptism at River Jordan. Having fasted for forty days, he felt so hungry. At this point in his life, Jesus became empty, not just hungry, an emptiness which made him vulnerable. Devil thought that this was a tailor- made opportunity to put Jesus to the test. Simply put, the devil is telling Jesus: “You believe that you are specially loved by God? How can you be God’s loved one and yet be empty? How can you be blessed, yet be hungry? How can you be God’s beloved, if you are unfulfilled? And Jesus answers: “I may be hungry but still I am the beloved Son Of God; I may be empty, I am still the blessed son of God; I may be unfulfilled but I am still precious to God”. You may feel empty because something is missing in your life. You feel empty because you don’t receive enough love from your spouse or your parents. You feel empty because your family life has been unsuccessful or because your work or your studies is boring. The devil may tempt you to fill your inner emptiness by seeking pleasure through sex, drugs, pornography. But the best way to overcome your emptiness is to believe that you are precious to God and God loves you.

In the second temptation, Devil is challenging Jesus: “How can you believe that you are blessed, God’s beloved one, if you do not have the glories of the world? Jesus replied to the devil “I can be precious to God and deeply blessed even though I don’t have the glories of the world”. This world measures the success of a person in terms of his temporal achievements in life namely wealth, academic and professional qualifications, and popularity. These things are not bad in themselves. But they could become bad or evil when we turn our back to God who has gifted all these things to us. On the day of your funeral, if the eulogist says that we have lost a man who was faithful to his wife to the end, we have lost a man who has maintained his professional life with a great sense of honesty and sincerity, We have lost a God fearing man for the Church, I think that the death of such a person gives more life and to energy to his bereaved family members. Even his death is blessing to others.

Finally the devil plays a last card: “If you are God’s special one, throw yourself off of the temple and force God to catch you. If God considers you special, let him prove it, let him treat you as special”. Although Jesus was special to His heavenly Father but He never expected special privileges from God. He never urged God, The Father to come and rescue him through some special intervention when he was humiliated, suffering and dying on the Cross. He was raised By God after his death. The special intervention came only after his death.  Two of His disciples, James and John expected special privileges from Jesus but he refused to do so. All His disciples had to undergo suffering and death; there was no special rescue for them. Even His best friend Lazarus was not spared from death. They were not rescued but all of them were redeemed By God in the end. The rescue is temporary but redemption is eternal. Therefore we must seek not so much to be rescued but to be redeemed by God.