— The Lord’s Day —

Week 1: Sunday

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“Filled with the Holy Spirit,
Jesus returned from the Jordan and
was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted (πειραζόμενος, peirazomenos)
by the devil (διαβόλου, diabolou)”

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

διάβολος (diabolos), translated often throughout both Testaments of Scripture as ‘adversary’ or ‘devil,’ is a compound that means “to throw apart.” It is the opposite of παραβολή (parabole), which can be translated as “parable” or “symbol.” All throughout the Scriptures, διάβολος is an active power working ‘intelligently’ (with a plan) to divide and to separate. Often this active power is a person, who ‘connects’ to or with other persons (Divine, human or angelic) to divide and then conquer. The image that many have of the devil being that ‘bad voice’ whispering in the ear to do something bad does not really capture the horror of διάβολος. The popular image of being tempted to do this or to do that, misses the mark that the work of διάβολος is to separate one completely from the Other and others. διάβολος is about derailing life’s plan in a way that makes a train wreck out of life. Worse still in the Gospel account, διάβολος is the attempt to drive a permanent wedge between God the Father and the loving plan of salvation He has for each person. Here the words of Saint Paul must be the believer’s battle armor: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).”

Consider for a moment when this particular event occurs in Jesus’ life. The Gospel pericope proclaimed today begins: “Jesus returned from the Jordan.” In the Lucan chronology, Jesus had been baptized by John and was about to begin the Public Ministry in Galilee. Between those 2 events stands Jesus’ ‘test’ of 40 days in the barren wilderness of the desert. The Greek verb πειράζω (peirazo), translated here ‘tempted,’ has an array of meanings including “to test,” “to scrutinize,” and “to prove.” Why would Jesus have to undergo any form of ‘testing, scrutinizing and proving’? A response (not the answer) to that question lies in 2 other Books of Sacred Scripture: The Book of Job and The Letter to the Hebrews. In Job, διάβολος is a person whose role is to antagonize God. God speaks glowingly of the people who follow His way of living. The Antagonist says that humans only do that because of Divine blessings received in the form of various material goods. Take them away and humanity will curse God. Thus begins the ‘testing of Job.’ Will he separate himself from God by cursing God for what has befallen him?

The Letter to the Hebrews offers another facet to consider. “In the days when He [Jesus] was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, He learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:7-10).” In His humanity, Jesus lives life always attentive to His Father’s Word. He does not list to another (cf Genesis 3) and certainly dialogues with no one who will derail the Mission He has received from His Father. In His ‘testing,’ Jesus lives in way the Father intended ‘from the beginning.’

The Lenten journey is a journey with Jesus to oneness and wholeness, realizing that each of us has abused many of the elements of creation and in so doing have separated ourselves in varying degrees from our Father’s love. We learn from the catechumens and candidates, many who will be ‘elected’ by the local Bishop in dioceses throughout the world during these early days of Lent. They have listened attentively to The Word that has brought oneness and wholeness to them. They have struggled to separate themselves from elements of the world that preclude a loving relationship with the Divine Persons they will meet in Baptism at the Easter Vigil. For those already baptized, we join in loving solidarity with them – knowing sadly that we have permitted separation from our First Love to infect our very beings with promises for false hopes and joys. With the Word of God and the guarantee of Divine Love, may Lent be the joyful season of Grace that plunges each into deeper union with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.