From the Pastor’s desk— February 26, 2023
Today’s Gospel is one of the richest stories in Jesus’ life where He goes to the desert and while in His 40 days of discernment, like we are in our 40 days of Lent, He undergoes some temptations. He responds to these temptations, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago in my homily, with the opposite, prayer. While each one of these temptations says something profound to us, I think the 2nd temptation speaks most to us in Lent.
Jesus’ response to the devil promising an angel will catch Him if he throws Himself down from the Temple, comes from the book of Deuteronomy, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Deut 6:16) We might not think that we put God to the test, but we have expressions that show we do. You may have said or heard phrases like, “Don’t push your luck,” “You’re playing with fire,” or “Don’t tempt your fate.” If you replace “luck”, “fire”, or fate” with “God”, you can see we are saying the same thing. If we are to be true disciples of Jesus, which is our goal in Lent, these are events we need to avoid.
Perhaps the most common way we put God to the test is when we say statements like, “God, if you heal me” (though I haven’t taken care of my health) or you help me to pass may test (though I didn’t study) or you get me the job, girlfriend/boyfriend, car I want, “I will go to church every Sunday.” It is not that we cannot ask God for things, we do and we can, but HOW we ask is the issue. Often, at the point we promise God something, it is probably something we should be doing anyway.
To be fair, this type of prayer, is quite common for us in the western capitalistic world. It is purely transactional. I give you something if you give me something, but Jesus tells us that God does not work that way. Once we link doing our responsibility to receiving a blessing from God, we have reduced God to a simple transaction, which can resemble God as puppet master that I push into action.
Another common way we tempt God is all the ways we disregard the laws of nature, as if they don’t apply to us. If I go outside without a jacket on a cold, windy, or wet day and not think that I will get sick, we have tested God, by testing His laws of nature. Testing God could also be doing anyone of the dozens of internet challenges that popped up since the beginning of the social net. The lesson behind all of this is humility. We, as humans, have limits. When we can accept only God is infinite and we are not, can we put our life with God in the right order. When we put our life in the right order, temptations have no power over us anymore.
With a heart for Mission,