From the pastor’s desk
First Sunday of Lent -Year C– Israel’s Confession of faith and practices
Many times, we elaborately celebrate our faith and beliefs. Many times, our faith and beliefs we celebrate are contradicted by what we do as the people of God. In baptism, we have vowed to renounce Satan, sin and death. We have renounced the glamour of evil and ways antagonistic to the ways of God. In baptism, we have said ‘yes’ to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We have pledged to live for God. But on the contrary, tempted we backslide and do the opposite.
The Old Testament people of God had similar experiences like us. As a people specially called and chosen by God, they celebrated their call and election. They celebrated their being given the Promised Land. In their thanksgiving offering, they were to declare how their father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household as an alien. Blessed by God and maltreated and oppressed, God freed them and brought them to the Promised Land where they had harvested the produce of the land which they were presenting before the Lord. Asked whether they were sincere to the Lord; had they purged their house of the sacred portion and had given to the Levite, the alien, the orphan and the widow, as they were commanded, one would find the contrary. Many times, there were social injustices and many practices condemned by the Prophets. The people at times, did not give their 100% loyalty to God as expected.
Their infidelity resulted to punishment by God which eventually would be followed by God’s mercy and forgiveness.
What God intended Israel of the Old Dispensation to be which they failed to adequately meet up with, is what he has called us to be in the New Testament as the New Israel, the new people of God who by baptism have entered into a covenant with our God in his Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have been given the Grace to overcome the assault of the evil one. Jesus’ overcoming of the temptations of the evil one today, is the power and strength given to all who are in him to overcome all temptations and trials.
St. Luke’ account helps us to draw a parallel between Israel’s experience in the Old Testament and that of Jesus. Israel’s experience of trial in the desert is recapitulated in Jesus’ life. Israel’s forty years in the desert is lived out in Jesus’ forty days experience in the desert without food. Tempted by the devil, Jesus did not use his divine power to his own selfish advantage. He did not turn stone into bread to satisfy his hunger. Jesus did not listen to the voice of the evil one to acquire earthly kingdoms. In all circumstances, Jesus continued to live in submission to the Will of the Father, and worshipped him alone. Jesus did not listen to the evil one to become a superman. He won victory over the suggestions of the evil one.
Throughout his earthly life and ministry, Jesus continued to overcome the devil in all circumstances especially at his passion and death.
In Jesus we have the Word of God which St. Paul tells us is near us on our lips and in our heart, the word of faith. Whoever calls on Jesus will be saved. In this Lenten season, the holy Church calls on us to make a journey of forty days with Jesus; to intensify our baptismal life and commitments; we are asked to fast, pray and do works of charity and alms-giving; to journey with him to Calvary and above all, to imitate his sacrifice which brought about the salvation of the whole world. It is not enough to confess our faith with our lips like the Old Testament Israel. As the New People of God, we are called to imitate Our Lord and Master in everything He did for Our Salvation.. Faith and good works must go hand in hand.
Rev. Fr. Michael Onyekwere, SDV, PhD