16 February 2013


1st Sunday of Lent
Lk 4:1-13 (Dt 26:4-10 / Ps 91 / Rom 10:8-13)

A great story of freedom is written at the very heart of the Old Testament.  More so in the heart of every Jew!  Through the ages, the Jews sung the epic of their liberation from Egypt and special consecration to God as His Chosen People.  Famine brought their ancestors to Egypt where they grew in number.  But the Egyptians, fearing that they might be overpowered, oppressed the migrant Jews by using them as cheap labor and keeping their population low by the systematic killing of their newborn male babies.  But, through signs and wonders, God intervened on behalf of the Jews and, through Moses, freed them from slavery in Egypt.  The book of Exodus celebrates the momentous event of their liberation from oppression and the first steps they took in their journey to the Promised Land.  The first reading today, taken from the book of Deuteronomy, tells us how the Jews kept that good memory alive in their minds and hearts.

But almost right after they left Egypt, the Jews had to face the stark reality that freedom did not mean the absence of trials and sufferings.  Behind them was Egypt but in front of them was the wilderness.  Many of them complained because they did not think much of an escape that led them into a wilderness.  Aha, so, their new freedom meant new pain after all!  Not a few preferred the security that went with slavery in Egypt to the pain that went with freedom.  And some of them were even vocal about it!  The price of freedom was wilderness.

They escaped Egypt in one night but they did not reach the Promised Land overnight.  For forty years, the Jews sojourned in the wilderness.  There, in the wilderness, they were tested.  Many of them did not pass the test.  Many times they were hungry and thirsty.  And still many doubted if God cared at all for them.  We know their experience, don’t we?  For our hearts, too, can be divided about God when we want to trust Him but our empty stomachs make us doubt.  For the Jews wandering in the wilderness, the Promised Land was miles away but their hunger was here and now.  There was a reason for their hunger, they were told in Deut 6:4, “…to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”   But that reason, though indeed true, feed the mind and not the stomach; thus, even if the Jews ever understood their hunger in the wilderness, their stomachs did not stop grumbling.  Perhaps they came to know but they remained starving nonetheless.  And it was this hour of their testing that the People of God were commanded to commit their whole hearts to Him.

Israel’s testing in the wilderness foreshadowed Jesus’ testing in the desert.  Jesus is the new Israel.  The Gospel for today tells us that, filled with and led by the Holy Spirit, after His baptism by John at the Jordan, Jesus spent forty days in the desert where He ate nothing and, therefore, was very hungry.  Jesus was hungry and was tested.  With an empty stomach He, like the Israelites in the wilderness, was tested to see if He doubts God, His Father, or wholeheartedly commits Himself to Him.  Can Jesus be hungry and still trust God?  Will Jesus still follow God with His whole heart even as He feels the emptiness inside Him?  The answer is yes.

The Gospel narrates to us that Jesus persevered in His commitment to God despite His hunger and before any trial.  Leading us by His own example, Jesus, therefore, encourages us: “…do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.   For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.   But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Lk 12:29-31).  Jesus teaches us where to really place our trust: “Do not be afraid, little flock,” He says in Lk 12:32-33, “for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”  And when we are already confused by the many attractions of this passing world and weary by the seemingly endless trials so much so that we know not where are heart is, Jesus reminds us exactly where to find it: “…where your treasure is,” He tells us, “there your heart will also be” (Lk 12:34).

Jesus can speak to us – not only eloquently but, most importantly, credibly, too – about our own trials and temptations in life not because He read them in books or watched documentaries on them at Discovery or National Geographic channels, not even because He is God Himself, rather because, as Heb 4:15 declares, He has been tempted in every way, just as we are, but did not sin.

Presented to Him in three forms, according to the Gospel today, Jesus was tempted to believe that He could serve God without pain.  His love for God was tested: Will that love remain strong even when His own life is in danger?  Does His commitment to mission accept the possibility of laying down His very life for God or does it rather tenaciously cling to self-preservation instead?  Even before He actually faced His passion and death, Jesus was tested if His love for God holds fast even when His life is slipping away.

It is clear to Jesus that loving God and being loved by God never means exemption from sufferings and even death.  Thus, He committed Himself to God and loved Him in joy and in pain, in comfort and in hardships, in life and in death.  He was totally and madly in loved with God.  Before His passion meant the tortures and crucifixion He was made to suffer, it already meant His love for God.  Jesus’ passion was, is, and will always be His love for God.  He is passionately in loved with God.

Jesus draws us into His passionate love for God.  He invites us to enter into that love between Him and the Father, and so He calls us to go into the wilderness with Him where He allows our motivations in loving God be purified, our resolve to obey God be strengthened, and our sight of where our heart is – and therefore our real treasure – be made clearer.  But Jesus also teaches us that while our commitment to God saves us, it never makes us safe.

What is our wilderness?  May we truly enter into it during these Lenten days and, with Jesus, courageously but always humbly, face our real selves, for, as the Apostle Paul tells us in the second reading today, “No one who believes in Him will be put to shame.”  In our wilderness, let us examine our commitment to God.  Is it passionate, loving, and steadfast?  Let us also examine our hatred for evil.  Is it real, firm, and actual?  In the wilderness where we are tested – never alone but always with Jesus – who knows, we might find our real treasure and the freedom we always long for.


At 2:17 PM , Anonymous Emelie said...

Just want you to know that I have been a regular reader of your blog since the time I've visited it by chance. My first time to type comments, though. I'm sure a lot of us read your blog but just don't leave comments. Thank you, Father Bobby for sharing with us your weekly spiritual reflections. They have enlightened and inspired me.

Today, I am reminded that "being loved by God never means exemption from sufferings and even death." That's why, I should welcome, embrace and solve problems encountered in life knowing and with the assurance that there is a God who loves me, no matter what.

At 8:08 PM , Blogger Fr. Bobby said...

Thank you very much, Emilie!

It's so good to hear from you. Continue reading and sharing the CRUMBS.

God loves you more than you know! +

Fr. Bobby


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