Repentance and Love – Passionate love never fails (Mt 4:1-11)
Remembering Jesus’ temptation at the beginning of Lent is not accidental. It is a great resource for our journey of Lenten preparation. We prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s redeeming death and Resurrection. Easter will be the full manifestation of God’s love. And by that time, hopefully, it will be the full manifestation of our love too, for this great gift of eternal Life. So, we can presume that Jesus’ temptation has to do with the growth of our love which we aim at in this Lent.
Jesus prepares himself during a period of forty days in the wilderness. This is an image of Israel’s forty days in the wilderness. Israel failed God by idolatry, wrong political alliances and grumbling about food and water. Jesus does not fail. Jesus’ love for God does not fail.
His temptations speak to every age. It sums up the struggles of human love to be faithful to God’s love for humankind. First, perhaps, let us to understand how his probes speak to our situation today? I am just highlighting one aspect. It was triggered out by a questionnaire which a pastor of another denomination has asked me to fill in. The questions sought an answer, how can churches reach out to the ‘y-generation’, who speak the language of technology but are totally detached from church life.
The answers are many, and complex. Yet, whatever severs them from Sunday worship, the same forces that ‘detach them’ also affect us. So can Jesus’ temptation offer a message to us? In his temptations, we can recognise the materialist mindset of our age. As if these seducing offers came straight away from the very heart of the consumer society in which we live. Quality food to enjoy, acting rashly and claiming miracles, excitement, fame, influence and power. Jesus’ response is a witness that first of all we live by the truth of the word of God. Jesus knows the goodness of God and is obedient to that goodness. He lives according to this goodness without provoking it. It is his daily providence. The offer to control and rule the world by power is turned by accepting God’s providence in ruling one’s life. He does not want power but the love and justice of God.
It is this love which shows a way out of an increasing encagement into the ‘matter’ which this age enforces upon us. His pointing to the Holy Spirit as the only true inspiration of life - sheds light on that the communication technologies, mass-media, web-surfaces are just a tempting journey ever deeper into matter. Without the Spirit, it is imprisonment in the matter, in the physical, the tangible: in the lifeless and loveless matter. That’s why in my answer to the questionnaire, I simply don’t believe that redemption and the ‘return of the y generation’ can happen through the churches’ ‘mass-media-literacy’. Without the primary experience of the joy of Salvation it will never work.
There is a beautiful and very positive image of Saint Francis de Sales. ‘Still love is the universal means of our salvation. At the gate of the earthly paradise there was placed one of the cherubim with a flaming sword to teach us that no one shall enter the heavenly paradise unless he has been pierced through by the sword of love. For this reason, Teotimus, our merciful Jesus, who has purchased us with his own blood, infinitely desires us to love him so that we may be saved forever, and he desires us to be saved so that we may love him for ever. Ah yes, he says, “I have come to cast fire into the world ,and what will I but that it is kindled?” To show us more vividly how ardent his desire is, he demands this love from us in wonderful terms. [And this lies at the heart of his overcoming Satan’s temptations.] “Love your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your whole strength.”’
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..