For the First Sunday of Lent (22 February 2015)
Our Lord’s forty days in the desert came immediately after his Baptism at the river Jordan.
This two-sided event of his Baptism and his forty days in the desert was the beginning of his public mission.
This back-to-back event reveals our salvation because it reveals the One True God: Father, Son and Spirit.
At the Jordan River and in the Desert we have first and foremost a proclamation and a presence of God.
If we look closely as Christ emerges from the flowing river and is driven by the Spirit into the parched desert, we find a key or a lens for reading the whole Gospel, the whole of Christ’s work two thousand years ago, and the whole of God’s continued work in grace, the liturgy and the Church.
At the Jordan River we witness that heaven is open and has a voice.
This is a mysterious image of God.
We are able to name this heavenly voice “The Father” only because this voice reveals a SON.
As Christ emerges from the water, the voice of the Father emerges from heaven.
You are my Son.
You are my Beloved.
You are the One Who Pleases Me Greatly.
Then two more signs from God appear on this day that begins by the Jordan and ends in the desert.
First we see that the Father’s Spirit (in the sign of a dove) rests upon the Son.
Then, driven by the power of the Spirit, Christ departs into the desert.
There in the desert, by the power of the Eternal Spirit, Christ offers himself to the Father in hunger, thirst, exposure, vulnerability and solitude.
Here already we see self-sacrifice.
Here already Christ of both the Cross and the Eucharist is present.
Here we recognize fully present the grateful obedience and the sacrificial gratitude of the Son in his love for his Father.
After his baptism in the Jordan and his penance in the desert, nothing substantially different really happens in Christ’s life and public ministry.
Grateful obedience and sacrificial gratitude!
In Christ’s life and preaching, in his good works, in his miracles, in his healing the sick and raising the dead, in his forgiving sinners, in his own suffering, death and resurrection, in his sacraments now in the Church— in all of these we witness and have the same realities that were present and revealed at the Jordan and in the desert.
The love of the Father is revealed.
The power of the Spirit is revealed.
The obedient gratitude of the Son is revealed.
In all these revelations we worship the One True God in whom we find our salvation.
The penance of Christ in the desert points to the naked truth of humanity’s original relationship with God.
It reveals the naked truth of the divine Son’s relationship with the heavenly Father.
The penance of Christ in the desert reveals the deep meaning and power of penance.
Penance leaves us naked, hungry and vulnerable.
Penance is our first deliberate step in loving God, because love cannot grow in those who forever protect themselves.
Penance deliberately exposes.
Christ began his public ministry of love by doing penance.
Then he began his public preaching by preaching penance.
for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Mt. 1:17]
This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
and believe in the Gospel. [Mk. 1:15]
The love of God and the power of his Spirit do not grow in us without the willing vulnerability that penance can bring about in our lives.
After the first sin, Adam hid the nakedness of his body from God.
In the Eucharist, Christ exposes to us and to the Father the vulnerability of his Body and Blood.
That is a paradox, for in the VULNERABILITY and SACRIFICE of his Body and Blood he reveals and gives to us the POWER of the Spirit and the LOVE of the Father.
Christ’s baptism at the Jordan, his penance in the desert, his preaching, his ministry and his whole Gospel all coincide with his Eucharist and his Cross.
In the Eucharist and on the Cross, the vulnerability of Christ is a willing vulnerability unto death.
Greater love than this, there cannot be.
Sin obliges us to do penance, for in sin we refuse to love.
Through penance we can begin to learn our freedom to love as Christ loved on his cross and to love as Christ loves in his Eucharist
For this reason, we always take up the tiniest cross of a one-hour fast before we receive the Eucharist.We do that penance and all penance for the sake of love, for in the Eucharist we receive the challenge, the example and the event of love exposing its naked self.