Louis Evely wrote a beautiful book on scriptural spirituality which he titled That Man Is You. That title reveals his thesis, for he proposes that all the stories of the Sacred Scriptures are stories about us – you and me.
Today, Evely would invite us to see ourselves in Abraham and the Israelites in the desert. Abraham along with his wife Sarah are our ancestors in faith. The two were invited by God to enter into a covenant relationship. The Lord would be their God, and they and their descendants would be God’s chosen ones, numbering as the stars in the heavens. These Arameans were wanderers. They had no roots. Their descendants, the Israelites, are reminded by Moses that they too are the same: wandering and faltering, as they seek the land promised in the covenant.
Their story is our story: wandering and faltering as we seek the way to our destiny. Like them, we are called, chosen to be part of a divine covenant.
On this first Sunday of Lent, we are also challenged by another story that Evely would say is our story as well. Jesus is led by the Spirit from his baptism in the Jordon to the desert -- a place of wandering, of faltering for the Israelites -- to prepare for his mission. His desert experience is part of theirs, as it is part of our human experience.
We too are led by the Spirit from our baptism to prepare for our mission as disciples of Jesus. The struggles of the Israelites on their journey to the promised land and the temptations faced by Jesus are what we face every day in our wandering. This Lent is a microcosm of that journey.
Tempted to turn stones into bread, Jesus is confronted by the human dilemma of priorities that are out of sync with his mission. The lure of the material often overwhelms us and leads us to ignore our call. The very first word spoken by God to each one of the baptized was the same word of God that was heard at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordon: “You are my Beloved.” The attractions of this world drown out that divine profession of love. This is our temptation: to forget the covenant of baptism. To forget “I love you, and you are mine!”
Beholding the kingdoms of the world, Jesus is tempted to forego his destiny and instead foolishly embrace the power and control of the Evil One. That’s our story. Rather than acknowledging our humanity with all its brokenness and frailty, we seek out support from sources that can only delude us through addictions and rationalizations of every sort. We fail to recognize that there is no power on earth greater than “You are forgiven.”
Led to the parapet of the temple, Jesus is tempted to test God. Jesus refuses. God’s promise is enough for him. Is it enough for us? The peaceable kingdom is God’s promise to us. A world of peace and justice. A world where there is no more war. No more divisions. No more hunger. No more poverty. No more disease. We call it the Reign of God. Jesus embraces that promise and its challenges and passes them on to us saying, “The kingdom given to me….I give to you.” Our trust must also be in the promise. Our challenge is in its fulfillment in our time. That's the challenge of discipleship: "Live in my love."
The temptations faced by Jesus in the desert were designed to divert him from his mission. It is clear that we face the same temptations designed to divert us from our mission as the disciples of Jesus. We gather around the altar this First Sunday of Lent to be inspired by the courage of Jesus in the desert and to be fed by his Body and Blood so we might be able to accept the challenge of these Forty Days, which is nothing short of becoming more and more like the one who came as one of us so we would be more like him.