Saturday, February 20, 2010

'Nobody' in the eyes of men, but 'Somebody' in the eyes of God

First Sunday of Lent Year C

What are the criteria of a successful man? The answer seems obvious – having money, lots of money, power and popularity. No one will give you a second look if you are poor, weak, or unpopular. Yes? No?

Today’s gospel goes against this very trend of thinking. Jesus is also confronted by these 3 temptations – possessions, power and popularity. The temptation to change the stones into bread is the temptation to place one’s trust in riches, possessions and objects. We may be tempted to feel that if we have lots of money or that we have acquired a very good education, we are then somebody important – others will look up to us.

In the second temptation, the devil tempts Jesus with power. This is a very powerful temptation – many of us are tempted to control our lives, to control organizations, to control other people. We are tempted to think that if we are in control then we would be somebody important.

The third temptation is the temptation to be popular. Jesus did perform miracles but never to show off or to make himself popular.

We see Jesus rejecting all these 3 temptations because none of them could take away the fact that he was the Son of God. Nothing could change that. He was indeed the Son of God and there was no need to prove it by putting his trust in riches, power and popularity. For Jesus, the foundation and core of his whole ministry and identity is the Father’s love for him. We find this in the story of his baptism by John the Baptist which immediately precedes today’s gospel story. In that story, when Jesus comes out from the water, he hears a voice from heaven that says: “You are my beloved son, my favor rests on you.” What a wonderful thing – to be totally dependent on this knowledge that God loves us no matter. God does not want nor need us to prove it through our achievements. We don’t need to prove our importance by acquiring riches, power and popularity. Being God’s sons and daughters is all that we would ever need.

This is the reason why Moses wanted to remind the Israelites of their history and their identity in the first reading – they were ‘nobodies’ – they were ‘slaves.’ But God gave them an identity- he saved them, gave them a land which they could call home and made them His people. Without God they had no identity, no freedom, no riches, no importance. Only with God was this all possible.

So it is with us today. Let us pray for the grace to resist these temptations of riches, power and popularity, knowing that they can never promise us eternal happiness. It is only in God that we shall find happiness and everlasting life. That is all that matters.

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