One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

February 25, 2007

For the First Sunday of Lent

Luke 4:1-13

The Gospel today tells us the Holy Spirit led Christ “into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.”
However, as we go on listening, we hear the temptations began when the forty days were over.
This is the Gospel according to Luke.
It is the same in the Gospel according to Matthew:
[Christ] fasted forty days and forty nights,
and afterward he was hungry…
[then] the tempter came….

If the devil arrived to tempt Christ only at the END of the forty days, what happened DURING the forty days?
Christ was not alone in the desert.
The Gospels make it clear he had company from the start.
Filled with the HOLY SPIRIT,
Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the SPIRIT
into the desert for forty days

Christ had the Holy Spirit with him in the desert throughout those forty days.
Let’s recall that his Spirit-driven forty-day retreat of Christ into the desert began right after Christ received baptism in the Jordan River.
At the baptism of Christ, heaven split open.
The Spirit in the shape of a dove came out of heaven, and came down upon Christ.
The voice of the Father also came down.
You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.

Imagine that this had happened to you:
heaven split open over you;
the Eternal Spirit as a dove coming down upon you;
the voice of the Heavenly Father booming down that you are his beloved son or daughter with whom he is well pleased.

Humanly speaking, to describe such a happening as “overwhelming” would be an UNDERstatement.
Would forty days be enough for you to get over it?
As soon as it happened to Christ, the Gospels tell us the Spirit DROVE him into the desert.
Christ went into the desert vested with the Father’s echoing acclaim, love and pleasure.
Christ went into the desert robed, invested and overshadowed by the Spirit.
Christ was not alone for those forty days.
Rather, he was in communion with the Father and the Spirit.
The blessed, almighty, eternal, divine Trinity broke open the sky, invaded, inhabited and consecrated the desert for forty days.
With that in mind, we are ready to understand that the devil’s arrival in the desert was sacrilege, presumption and trespassing.
The devil went into the sanctified desert not merely to tempt Christ as an individual and as a man.
The devil wanted to displace and disrupt the communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The devil could never so much as attempt that in heaven.
However, now that the Son of God had become a member of the sin-laden human race on earth, the devil tried his luck.
The defeat of the devil and the triumph of God AND MAN in Christ was the victorious beginning of the public mission of Christ.
However, at the consummation of his public mission— at the cross— it looked instead like final defeat.
On the cross, it looked like heaven— that had split open for Christ at his baptism— had now shut tight.
Whereas at Christ’s baptism the Father’s voice boomed out love and pleasure for Christ— on the cross Christ gave voice to a piteous lament.
My God, my God!
Why have you abandoned me?

Whereas at Christ’s baptism the Spirit in the form of a dove overshadowed him and took him into the desert— on the cross Christ gave up the Spirit in death.
Humanly speaking— the seeming lone agreement between the holy desert and the cross is that on both occasions Christ hungered and thirsted.
However, beyond the merely human, there is victory over the devil in both the holy desert and on the holy cross.
On both occasions— in the desert and on the cross— Christ is faithful to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In the letter to the Hebrews, the word of God speaks of “the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish” to the Father.
In the desert and on the cross, Christ remained spotlessly faithful to the Father through the eternal Spirit.
It is the same in the Eucharist: the body and blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offers himself without blemish to the Father.
The desert, the cross, the Eucharist: in all three Christ is spotlessly faithful in offering himself to the Father through the eternal Spirit.
Christ— faithful to the Father, beloved of the Father, well pleasing to the Father.
For us, the most wonderful thing about this is that Christ who is God is as faithful to SINNERS as he is to his Father who is God.
God the Son did not have to come down from heaven and become a man.
He freely chose to do so.
When he did so, neither the devil nor death could get in the way of his faithfulness to the Father or to US SINNERS.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the act of God being completely faithful to the human body, the human race, human nature, and human life.
God will reveal the fullness of his faithfulness to us on the day he finally raises us from the dead.
Neither the devil nor death can get in the way of God’s fidelity to us.
However, you and I each have as much power as the devil to get in the way of our own faithfulness to God.
Against that dreadful power and possibility, Christ through the eternal Spirit feeds us his own triumphant fidelity in his body and blood.
His triumph and fidelity in the Eucharist— just as at the Jordan River, in the desert, and in the resurrection— his triumph and fidelity in the Eucharist bear within them the driving force of the Holy Spirit together with the Father’s love and pleasure in his sons and daughters.
All this self-giving of God to us— the triumph and fidelity of the Son, the love and pleasure of the Father, the driving power of the Holy Spirit— all of that is already ours in the Eucharist.
Already ours— but ours to live out in our choices and actions!

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







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