This Sunday features Christ’s desert temptations. There Satan wanted him to serve his own wealth and power rather than God and others even unto the cross. Its the temptation we all face and one the church has failed over and over in its history. Lets fortify ourselves against it by Lenten practice and confession..
Christ tells us in today’s gospel that man doesn’t live on bread alone. Its a message for our time which needs to realize that we need faith to give deeper value to our life. The story of Christians sent to the salt mines in Russia during the secular communist era illustrates this. “Others there were stronger and had more bread than I”, one says, “but they died and I lived; it wasn’t that I kept the faith but that the faith kept me”. Modern science bears this out, saying evolution favors those of faith, they are the fittest who survive. Yet many foolishly close themselves to necessary belief. Like dictators such as Stalin, some of our politicians even want to enforce this approach. Divesting schools of Catholic patronage; is this the thin end of a secularist wedge? The European treaty doesn’t mention God. But undue worldliness should not rob us of the faith that sustained us down the ages, and is salvation for this world and the next.
And that’s what Christ tells Satan in the desert. Man doesn’t live on bread alone. During the economic boom that wisdom cut little ice; money, cars, big houses, foreign apartments were the be-all. As wealth increased faith declined. Who needs God? Money is enough. Satan’s voice still echoes in our world: “the whole world I’ll give you if you’ll bow down and worship me”. No wonder the first commandment is the first. Not that worldly goods aren’t to be enjoyed, God made them for us. But the key word in Christ’s message is “bread alone“. When we make material things our all, our souls can shrivel. Does a mother care for baby’s physical wants only. Christ saw through Satan’s ruse, so must we.
But the devil didn’t give up, he turned the screw tighter. Come on, you’re God’s Son use magic for your gain, forget the stupid scriptural role of being the Suffering Servant. Serve yourself and trample on anyone in your way. Satan would make Christ in his own image, a power-hungry fanatic like Hitler smashing enemies, riding to glory on the blood of fellow humans. Our modern world’s full of such people who kick pensioners to death for a few euros, or drug lords who destroy our youth for pads in Spain. Christ chose suffering and became Lord of all.
But first he faced another key temptation, to put God to the test. The temple caper is like someone today saying: “God give me a lotto win or else”. Like a spoilt child we’d have God dance to our every tune. He doesn’t ordinarily ignore natural laws. If he did our freedom would be out the window. Christ tells Satan that real faith is in trusting God through suffering, when the easy way out isn’t given. Its the test Christ passed on the cross. He cried “why have you forsaken me” but he was quoting a psalm whose finale saw the Christ triumph precisely through his suffering. For worldly trials test us and pass, but Christ on the cross is lord of love, goodness, glory and happiness both for our deeper happiness in this world, the nourishing of our immortal souls, and our salvation forever and ever, amen. So as God’s people, seeing through the blind pursuit of worldly power and greed that can strip us of faith and self-giving love of God and fellow human beings, lets profess our faith anew…
Prayers of the Faithful:
Craving more than bread or money, lets ask for all we need.
For our Holy Father the Pope and all leaders of the church that they may convince us of our need for God, the value of self-giving charity and steadfast faith amid life’s ups and downs..
For civil leaders that they may help, by their laws and practices to nourish the spiritual as well as the material
well being of all their citizens.
For ourselves, in our homes and work places may we practice self-giving love, faith and trust in God through all our trials, sufferings and difficulties, and so gain the crown of life..
For our wonderful young people that they may not be so caught up in the pursuit of wealth, power or fame as to neglect the humble service of God and others that is salvation for their souls and their main reason for being here in this world..
For the sick, that they may see value in unavoidable suffering and offer it up like Christ for the salvation of the world..
For the dead, especially those that we have loved, that through the prayers and masses we offer for them they may come to their heavenly home, if they have not already done so…
And we ask all these our prayers through Christ our Lord who constantly intercedes for us before the father in Heaven.
In recent times did the church put wealth and power before humble service of people? Hence its brought low now by its scandalous sins against the vulnerable? Christ’s words, man does not live on bread alone, should convince it that vulgar shows of pomp, power and wealth are far from its role. Christ says that Christian leaders shouldn’t Lord it over people, like the worldly do. Thankfully, the present Pope Francis is a heeding his words; he lives simply in St.Peter’s. Peter himself was a humble fisherman. Christ washed the feet of his disciples and had nowhere to lay his head. As individuals and as a church we pray that we may learn that worldly glory passes but its in imitating our humble servant Lord that we gain real riches..Hail Mary