WHERE ARE YOU?
(A biblical reflection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 1, 2020)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 51:3-6,12-14,17; Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19
The Scripture Text
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him to the holy city, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord You God.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, You shall worship the Lord Your God and Him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11 RSV)
The writer of Genesis tells us a profound truth about sin and its effects. Because of sin there is dislocation everywhere; everything becomes askew; nothing is as t was planned to be. It means that we can be open neither with God nor with each other. We spend our time and energy in cover-up. We cannot face God. In the Genesis story God has to come searching for Adam and Eve. So the first question of God in the Bible is the everlasting one: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). And if salvation is a matter of being found by God, that first question is the root of all biblical questions: “Where are you?”
When God finds Adam and Eve He expels them from the garden into the wastelands. The first human beings are the first refugees: in the beginning there was the exile. Banished from the garden they must make do in a world where they will have to struggle for survival; a world where human relationships will be fragile; a world where fidelity to God’s word will always be a challenge. Genesis tells us that sin enters the world through disobedience to the word of God. But there is a promise of salvation which leaves room for hope. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans (second reading): as sin entered the world through one man’s disobedience, so salvation enters the world through one man’s obedience. That one man is Jesus of Nazareth (see Romans 5:14-15).
Jesus comes in the name of God. Like God in the garden of Eden, He comes to look for those who have hidden themselves from God, such as Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector: “… the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). Jesus is the one who comes seeking us out, calling our names, knocking on our doors, asking to be let in. He is the quest of God in search of a lost people.
The mission of Jesus is to save. Of all the verbs that describe what Jesus does, the verb “to save” is the most important. Saving is the verb of God. Jesus is the Savior. But His mission to save is not free from trial. He is tempted to abandon trust in His Father and go the way of power and prestige and public display. Before His mission gets under way the Gospel shows Him in the wasteland facing a series of temptations, the same temptations that Israel faced in the desert.
Jesus is seen to face temptation with the power of the word of God. He does not argue Himself; He uses the word of scripture and makes fidelity to that word the mark of His mission. He lives by the word of God. He feeds on that word. Obedience to that word will take Him through trial and temptation to the cross itself, the great sign of our salvation. In Jesus’ obedience to the word of God we are saved. Each time He responds to Satan’s temptation, Jesus always begins His sentences with these words …… “It is written, …” (Matthew 4:4,7,10)
At Easter we will celebrate the resurrection, the most important feast in the Christian calendar. Now we begin LENT as a time to ready ourselves for that great feast.
We are invited to let God find us where we are. He has the same question to ask each of us: “Where are you?” During this Lent we can make time to look where we are in our lives and discover God’s presence anew. We are challenged to make time to listen to His word. We are invited to let Him get close to who we are and how we are.
Traditionally Lent is a time when we give up some things or take up some things. Whatever we do, it would be a good idea to allow the word of God to get close. The word comes to question who we are; it comes to support the kind of people we could be. We could make a little time – five or ten minutes each day – to let the word form us as it formed Jesus. Let it influence what we do and say. Let the word of God find us so that we emerge from our hiding places into the peace of His presence.
(Adapted from Denis McBride, C.Ss.R., SEASONS OF THE WORD – Reflections on the Sunday Readings, 1991/1993, pages 70-71.)
Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Thank You for Your obedience to the word of God, hence your victory over the devil! Teach me to recognize my enemy’s strategies and to overcome through faith and trust in You. Amen.
Jakarta, 28 February 2020
A Christian Pilgrim