- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

March 10, 2019

Fr. Gerard D’Souza, OCSO [1]

1st Sunday of Lent

The Gospel today pitches us directly into what is of utmost importance – the spiritual combat with evil. This combat is going on all the time in our souls but it is concealed from us because we are distracted and inundated with noise. Lent reminds us of this battle and it calls us to conversion.

I would like to dwell on the first temptation of Jesus. The devil says to him – command this stone to become bread. The original Greek reveals the nature of this temptation. It reads – Say to the stone or speak the word to this stone that it may become bread. If we really meditate on this it will reveal the very dark side of this temptation. In the beginning, God spoke, He said the word and it came to be. Christ is the Word through whom all things came into being. Christ has in fact spoken the word and the stone came into existence. The devil is telling Christ go back on your word. Reverse it, drop the stone. You are God, why are you so hung up on this stone. Who will miss this stone? You are hungry, think about number one – yourself. There are millions of these useless stones around. Jesus refuses to do this. He will not reverse what He had made even if He suffers as a result of this.

This, my brothers and sisters should be a source of great consolation to us. God will never go back on what He had made. Each one of us is the word from God. There are billions of us in the world. The world would never miss us if we dropped out of sight. Our lives seem insignificant and almost pointless in the face of the vastness of the universe. It is this anxiety that eats away at us. And we project this on to God. He could not really care about each of one us – come on – there are just too many of us. This temptation reveals God’s heart. He will never take back a single word of His. He created us because He wanted to. No one forced His hand. No one put a gun to His head. You and I are here because God wanted us. And once God wills something He cannot change His will. He will always want us. There is voice in our head that tells us that God might be having second thoughts about us. Jesus who refuses to change that stone into bread tells us that this a lie. God cares for every little thing He has created. Look at the lilies of the field. How much more in our case – Why every hair on your head has been counted.

The other lie embedded in this temptation is that there are no limits in this life. If it is stone well change it into bread. What’s the big deal? Have the power, do it. Have the money, do it. Everything should be possible. Our world is all about no limits. We are fed this lie every day. Our life should be limitless. It should have no suffering. If we suffer it is because we have not found the right gadget or the right computer game. But here Jesus respects limits. The stone is a stone and should remain stone because God made it a stone. We chafe under limits. We hate to have no options, no escape hatch. We, in short hate being creatures. We must remember that this is inner structure of the devil. He hates limits. He wanted to be like God. Jesus shows us the way to be human. Accept limits. Accept suffering. There is nothing bad about it. It is part of our human condition. The interesting thing is that those who cannot accept limits are those without hope. This is why they are restless with limits. Limits scare them because hopelessness rises within them. But those with hope are not afraid of limits. Limits are not dead ends. God has created us with limits as entry points into a fuller life. The cross leads to resurrection and death is the doorway to eternal life.

Finally this temptation reveals the kind of foe we are up against. The Devil is the ultimate egotist. The Devil does not care for anything outside himself. He is like dark matter, an almost infinite darkness that sucks all the light into itself. God cares. God loves. The Devil destroys. The temptation reveals that the devil will use anything to further his purposes – he will destroy anything that stands in his way.  The stone has no value to the devil. He will just use it in order to get at Christ. To destroy Him. Let us not underestimate this foe who is hidden, super intelligent and unsleeping. Our hope is to cast ourselves into the hands of Christ who cares for us, who created us because He loves us, who loves us so much that He dies for us to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness. To Him, Love Incarnate, pure and primal light be glory and honor now and forever. Amen.