March 10, 2019
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
Always remember what God has done for you & give thanks by sharing your gifts. This sacred remembering which leads to thanksgiving and sharing is a golden thread woven throughout the entire Old Testament.
On this 1st Sunday of Lent we hear from the book of Deuteronomy a concrete example of thanksgiving and generosity rooted in remembering God’s saving deeds. Each year, during the Feast of Weeks (also called Pentecost), the Hebrew farmer offered to God the firstfruits of the harvest in thanksgiving for the gift of the land. As he offered this gift to God, the first part of his harvest, he recalled all that God had done for him and his ancestors.
How his “father” had fled famine in his homeland and had to live as an alien in a foreign land in order to survive. There in Egypt God provided food & saved Jacob and his sons from certain death. In Egypt, the Hebrew people multiplied and became a great nation, only to be oppressed and enslaved by the Egyptians. God heard their cries for help and by the great wonders of the 10 plagues set them free from the violence of Pharaoh’s power. Then God by Moses hand parted the Red Sea, saving the people from certain death at the hands of Pharaoh’s chariots and charioteers. This same faithful God provided food from heaven in the desert (manna) and water from the rock and led them eventually into the Promised Land, a land of abundance.
By remembering all that God had done for his ancestors, the Hebrew farmer’s heart would overflow with gratitude, leading to a generous sharing of the first fruits of his harvest. In doing so, he would acknowledge that his entire harvest was a gift from God who had given him and his ancestors the land and done great things to save them. Ultimately, the gifts he has do not belong to him, but to God.
The temptation underlying the 3 temptations of Jesus in the desert is the temptation to use his God-given gifts for himself. He is tempted by the evil one to use his gifts to take care of himself, for his own self-gain. But Jesus remembers where he came from and all that God the Father has done for him, and in doing so rejects the Tempter.
“You are my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.”
Jesus’ baptism is fresh in his mind as he enters the desert to be tested by Satan. After all, it is the same Spirit which had descended on him in the form of a dove that propels him into the desert. The voice of His Father at his baptism still rings in his ears: “You are my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” Remembering who He is as beloved Son of the Father, a Father who has provided for Him all his life-long, Jesus rejects the temptations of the enemy. Remembering all that God the Father has done for Him, Jesus chooses to place his gifts at the feet of the Father and in service of others. Ultimately, he will choose to reject the Tempter by offering the gift of his life for others.
Jesus rejects the temptation to use his divine power to feed himself. Instead, he will use that gift to feed others, multiplying a few loaves and fish to feed the hungry thousands.
He rejects the Tempter’s offer of all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus will not choose power over others for self-gain or self-exaltation. He chooses to use the gift of the power of divine love given to him in service of others. His power will flow from his humble, generous service of others as the Father has called him to do.
Jesus rejects the temptation to grandstand, to take a death-defying leap from that temple top in order to force His Father to prove His love for Jesus. Jesus knows how much He is loved by His Father. So at the end of his life, he will not yield to the temptation to leap down from the pinnacle of the cross, but will stay there, sustained by His Father’s love, offering His life as a gift to save all people.
Because Jesus, fully human like us in all things but sin, has been victorious over the Tempter, so we can be victorious as well. Joining our lives to his, turning to him in every temptation, we can reject Satan and his lies.
With Jesus, we can remember where we came from— the waters of baptism where we were filled with the Spirit and transformed into sons and daughters of God with him. With Jesus, we can give thanks to the Father for all that the Father has done for us, and use our gifts, not for ourselves or for our own self gain, but in service to others. With Jesus, we can bow down and worship the Father, from whom all good things come.
In Jesus, we can choose our relationship with the Father as the top priority in our life. We can seek the Father’s will in all things, through Jesus’ saving help. We can order all of our life rightly by seeking first the Kingdom of God and knowing that everything else will fall into its proper place.
So, we bring the first fruits as an offering to be placed before this altar. In doing so, we acknowledge that all we have and all we are, is a gift from God.
But even more, the monetary gifts brought to this altar represent the gift of our life given back to God. We join our lives to the Son of God at this Eucharistic sacrifice, and with him offer our lives to the Father in adoration and praise and thanksgiving.
Joined to Christ Jesus, we can overcome any temptation, especially the temptation to think God has abandoned us in time of difficulty.