Romans 10: 8-13; Luke 4: 1-13
It has obviously been a rather bizarre week in the life of the Church with the resignation of Pope Benedict on Monday. Of course, we can spend countless hours speculating as to whom will follow and the direction of the Church and dealing with internal problems that exist, but there has also been much focus on the humility and courage of Benedict to make such a bold move, which hasn’t been done in hundreds of years. Think about it, this is a guy who has it all. He has the power, the recognition, security, can go anywhere, has things taken care of for him, everything, and he gives it all up.
I have to believe that this time for him had to be something like Jesus experiences in the today’s gospel with the temptations. The temptation for any of us would be to just continue what we are doing and give into it all, knowing that we do have it all, and yet he gives it up. He recognizes that this is bigger than himself and the call of God goes beyond it all. That’s the courage and humility we can all pray for when we are faced with these decisions, certainly nothing to the magnitude of stepping down from leading the Church.
But Jesus needed the same courage and humility as the devil approaches at one of his most vulnerable times after not eating for 40 days; imagine the emptiness! Luke does tell us that the devil only leaves for a time and will once again appear on the scene on Palm Sunday when we find Jesus on the night before he faces the Cross, another extremely vulnerable time in his life. We do learn, though, that Jesus comes prepared despite his emptiness. He has the tools necessary to combat the devil.
The very first sentence of the Gospel tells us that he is led by the Holy Spirit, which he receives just prior to this on his baptism, and also has the word, he has Scripture, which he will need since the devil is just as versed at it. It sets the scene of this battle between Jesus and the devil over the desires of power and domination and possession, so much of what we face in our own lives. Yet, with tools in hand and a recognition that there is something bigger than him and a greater longing within, Jesus defeats the devil at his game.
When I met with my Lenten small group last week and spent time reflecting on these readings, I had posed to them this question, “What is it that we are feeding our souls with?” Is it the need for power, possession, security, recognition, and all the rest, or is it the Word? Is it the Word made Flesh in this Eucharist? Paul tells the Romans today that it’s already there; the word is hear, in our hearts and lips. With a trust in the Spirit working within, we too can find the courage and humility to confront the devil in our lives and to feed the true longing of the soul.
Pope Benedict put it this way in one of his final public appearances this week and reflecting on this Gospel. He asked, “What is the role of God in our lives?” As I said, what’s feeding out soul. He goes onto say, “Is God the true Lord in our lives or am I?” It’s a very pointed question but one we must all face consistently in our lives, especially during this Lenten season. What’s feeding my soul? What’s the role of God in my life? Is God the true Lord or am I giving into that temptation of making myself into God?