(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Mass-Blog-for-the-1st-Sunday-in-Lent-2022.mp3)
As we enter Lent, we are called to reexamine our diets—maybe by cutting down or eliminating empty calories. But there’s one food for which we are invited to be gluttons. The word of God is sustenance with many calories to keep us going through the leanest times. Those calories are calculated in truth.
As Sunday’s gospel reading tells us (Lk 4:1-13), Satan tried emptying the truth from the word of God on which Jesus was feasting in the desert. He even tried tempting Jesus to misuse the tools his Father gave him to accomplish his earthly mission.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, one does not live on bread alone.”
The Evil One is obviously familiar with God’s word—a delicacy he gave up long before this meeting with the second Adam in the desert. And again, he tried using his adulterated rehash of it to poison Jesus, just as he did successfully to the first Adam:
If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
But as Jesus realizes, Satan’s earthbound soul can’t metabolize the truth in the psalmist’s inspired words (Psalm 91). And therefore, Jesus teaches us to let our hearts digest them so joy will sustain us beyond our time on this earth and into his Father’s Kingdom.
Easy words for me to write, right? But starving children in the world’s poorest nations have found the strength to smile in gratitude for this rich faith they’ve been fed. Benedictine Monk Brother David Steindl-Rast explains how in his book, “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer.” He tells of a trip to Enugu, Africa, where he says he saw groups of children gathered on street corners to pray the rosary.
“Nowhere have I seen more radiant joy in children’s eyes than in the former Biafra. … Then it dawned on me that the joy I observed plays on a deep knowledge of suffering as sunrays play on the surface of dark waterholes. Only a heart familiar with death will appreciate the gift of life with so deep a feeling of joy.”
We would be well-fed to adopt the world-free faith upon which these children feast. As Paul implies in Sunday’s second reading (Rom 10:8-13), it is a soul food free of geographic boundaries and full of boundless energy. All we need to do is ask for it and our supply is eternal:
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
On a trip to Haiti some years ago I witnessed the most abject poverty my eyes have ever seen. Yet, in the children there I saw smiling faces, and joyful expressions.
Contrast that with young American children, even in my own family who always want more and are eager to get it. This made it clear to me that things don’t really give us joy or lasting happiness.
Mother Theresa said, “the poorest children are those that have everything.” In a material sense I completely agree. I would modify that some by saying the poorest people are those that don’t know Jesus Christ.
Matthew Kelly wrote that we can never get enough of what we really don’t need. No argument here.
Christ is the only thing that really satisfies.
Current events in Russia prove that humanity’s addiction to wanting “more,” especially in the hearts of the world’s most powerful, can not only lead us into evil, but can also become an existential threat. Christ offers us truth by offering a mirror.
In Matthew 24:10, he tells us, “Many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
The perseverance of Christ’s love among those who have nothing else left gives them everything they need. It’s a great lesson for those hungry souls suffering under humanity’s delusions of power.