Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Hard Business of Life

In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that the man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4).

In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8).
In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12).

What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?
General Audience, February 13, 2013

Reflection – I will never forget one of the signal graces of my life. Like most of the really big graces I have received it was utterly undramatic, so this won’t make all that great a story (Dear God: why can you never give me a big grace some time when I’m dangling from a precipice or fighting off a grizzly bear, just so I have at least one a good story to tell? Thanks, Fr. Denis).

Anyhow. Some years ago, we were praying the rosary in the MH dining room after supper as is our custom, and very simply, at one Hail Mary or another the word ‘Lord’ leapt out at me. So here was this word we Catholics use from practically when we learn to speak, in a prayer as familiar to us as our own names… and suddenly God brought it from my head and my lips to my heart.

God is the Lord. God is THE LORD. In other words, God has a right, an absolute claim, to my obedience, my loyalty, to my all in all. This was a true moment of conversion for me, a true waking up to the basic terms of life. I ain’t doing God no favors when I turn to him to seek and do His will—this is my absolute duty in justice towards Him, because He is LORD.

So the Holy Father’s words here resonate deeply with me. God is not an object for my use. God does not exist to get me what I want, to make the universe and my life just the way I think they should be. He is not a magician performing tricks to delight and amuse me. He is not my servant, really, although in His divine love and awesome tenderness He bends down to wash my feet and minister to my needs.

But ultimately what I most need is to be brought into the depths of the truth of His mighty lordship and my call to total abandonment and trust. And I do believe that this accounts for at least some part of the hard business of life: the fact that the universe does not curl itself around me like a snuggly blanket, that I just do not get my way in many things, and that this can at times be not just annoying but extraordinarily painful.

We must come to this reality of God’s lordship and our creaturely call to loving obedience. It may come in some form of hunger, either voluntary fasting or genuine deprivation of food or some other genuine good. It may come in the form of powerlessness, of abandoning ourselves to the condition of helplessness in the face of the world and its overpowering forces. It may come in the form of a deep call to trust God in the face of genuine difficulties and distress, to not try to force God to do our will or to force the world into our shape.

Jesus shows us the way in these temptations and his response, and shows us that this way is the way to life in the heart of God and eternal joy and bliss. And that is the whole purpose of Lent, and of our Christian way of life, to make Jesus’ way of life our way of life, and so enter into the fullness of life and joy He has made us for.


  1. The answer to the question in the first paragraph of your reflection is that you are not St. Paul. At least last time I checked you weren't. :P

    1. Alright, wise guy. I will settle for being boring ol' Fr. Denis.

  2. lol. I don't think you're boring.


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