A WORD FROM YOUR PASTOR
BY FATHER BERNIE PIETRZAK
Dear People of Saint Anne,
There is an adage that goes like this …facts don’t change people’s lives …stories do. Jesus seemed to know this truth… or else why would he have taught us through parables instead of discourse after discourse?
In our Gospel this morning, we encounter a very powerful story, Jesus versus the Evil One as he is tempted in the desert. I find it rather surprising that Hollywood has never made this story into a movie. Couldn’t you see Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson playing the devil and a very likable person, maybe Tom Hanks, to play Jesus and watch him resist the temptations and the smooth talking of the devil.
Well, they haven’t made this story into a movie, but this story, proclaimed on the First Sunday of Lent every year, certainly continues to capture our imagination. Because, as Christians, we, who believe in the incarnation – that God – in Jesus – became a human being like ourselves, and had to deal with temptations in his life and struggled like us … turned away from the evil one, and remain faithful to God – That’s the good news!
However, the danger in listening to a story like this one is that we can come to believe that Jesus conquered temptation once and for all after he left the desert and everything that the evil one offered him. Because isn’t that how most movies and stories end? They roll the credits, and we reflect how this character was good, and this character was bad, end of story.
Yet, it would be wrong to reduce the temptations of Jesus to this one story. For Jesus faced temptations throughout his entire life, all the way up to the garden of Gethsemane before his death when he prayed: let this bitter cup pass from me…
For when Jesus walked from the desert, outside of Jerusalem to begin his mission of preaching and teaching, up to the greener hills of Galilee he had to have heard that John the Baptist was arrested. And I wonder – was Jesus tempted to say to himself… Maybe I shouldn’t do this? Maybe I shouldn’t preach, after all, they arrested John… what will happen to me, will they also arrest me?
However, strengthened by the love of his Father, that was deepened in him throughout those forty days in the desert, Jesus doesn’t try to compromise his way out of a ministry that would cost him everything. No, Jesus comes to understand for himself that the only thing in life was to know, love and serve God, while giving everything that was required.
If we are honest, we know that we live in a world where being Christian will cost us something… at school, at work, in our social circles. If we are someone who declares that God is real, that Jesus is God’s Son, that our God is a God of love and justice and that all of life matters… even life in the womb, the life of an illegal immigrant, someone on death row or as we see in the horror of the People of Ukraine… it will cost us something. If we openly declare that Jesus meant what he said – that our entrance into eternal life depends in part on how we clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, care for the sick, welcome the stranger, it will cost us something. And that cost can appear. If we take it seriously, it could well be a great challenge.
How did Jesus find the courage to pay the price? It’s interesting, have we ever considered that the forty days of Jesus in the desert were not about a superhero evading the evil one, but they were forty days when Jesus grew to know and trust in the love of the Father. Slowly growing to experience the courage and care of his Father along with the will of his Father and the mission of his Father.
Friends, we have entered this Lenten season. Perhaps, this day, we can imagine for ourselves that these forty days of Lent are meant to be a time for us to listen more intently to God’s Word; learn more clearly about the ways of God; grow more aware of the dream of God for our world; while receiving the love, strength and courage of God through our prayer in order for us to discover the grace to do God’s will in our time and age?
In our prayer during these Lenten days ahead, as Jesus trusted in God during his time in the desert, let us trust that God keeps watch with us, loving us, teaching us, encouraging us, growing closer to our hearts, while deepening in our hearts what it means to be a person rooted in the reign of God.
Jesus survived the temptation of the evil one in the desert and in his ministry that followed because he believed that God kept watch with him, enlightened him and helped him to see that in the end… Love triumphs over power… over control… over self-satisfaction… over injustice… over selfishness. Let us pray this weekend that the same hope, faith, courage and integrity that filled the life and ministry of Jesus will grow within us as we journey through this Lenten season.
Trusting that Christ is indeed in our midst of our sharing in the Eucharist. The Lord is ready to teach us all that we need to know – and give us all that we will need — even when the gift of our shared faith will indeed cost us something if we choose to call ourselves his disciples.
Be at Peace,
Father Bernie Pietrzak