A Gift from God

03-10-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

The Season of Lent has begun with this Sunday and the readings address the major topic of the need for faith in our lives. The theme is in many ways trust in God as a strength, for we can rely on Him. Indeed, the message is simple and clear, but hard and difficult to live: trust in our God and do your best and all will work out accordingly.

Our Old Testament reading drives home the constant mantra of the Israelites that their God would never forget or abandon them no matter what they have done or failed to do. He will also rescue them when they call upon him for help. These lines of scripture today are critical to the Jewish faith and also are included in the Passover Haggadah.

Our second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Roman addresses the necessity and power of faith. Paul tells us clearly that those who have faith in Christ will not be put to shame. Their shared faith will make them the family of the Lord and beneficiaries of his rich mercy.

The Gospel illustrates for us how Jesus’ ministry began with an act of faith, an act of faith in God. Recall how Jesus in the desert struggled over three tempting paths that were set before him: choosing possessions, instant power, or instant fame. We know from living life that these compose the unholy trinity that continues to seduce human hearts. Jesus rejects all of these and responded in three ways.

Jesus absolutely refused to take any tempting shortcuts because they lead to nothing. Jesus, instead, recalled his Baptism at the Jordan and the words from heaven that had identified him with the prophet Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of God: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit” (Isaiah 42:1).

Jesus also refused to be a power player in a big manipulative political game. Later, we know how he would be a major disappointment to those who had hoped for a powerful political or military messiah. Thirdly, Jesus rejected becoming a crowd pleaser. He chose instead to faithfully follow and remain obedient to the will of God, obedient even to his death on the cross. Note clearly that his choice to be faithful to the will of God will mark the mission and ministry of Jesus.

It is very clear that trust or faith in God is at the core of all of our readings. As Lent begins today, the readings direct our attention to two different facets of our faith: they inform us again that life constantly tests our faith as individuals and as God’s people, and also they assure us that no matter the test life gives us, we can continue to trust and to have faith in God, because God is always faithful. Indeed, God will not lose faith in us. God will support us and see us through.

Bear in mind that we are no different from the ancient Israelites or the very early Christians with our need to trust constantly and consistently in God.

From the scriptures this weekend, we again learn that the plain truth is that the Word of God feeds and keeps alive our faith. Faith is a gift from God that only takes on power and meaning if we live this gift. We must invite and welcome God into our lives to support and strengthen our faith. When we do this, we discover that God is a God we can trust and more than worthy of our trust. Rather, the struggle for us is to be worthy of his trust and grace in how we live our life.

Father Brian