The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 2, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

How have we responded to God's call?

Lent provides us with a good time to profess our faith and live by it

March 4, First Sunday of Lent

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Happy Lent! It sounds strange but Lent should be a wonderful season during which we learn more about our Lord and Savior Jesus and how we might live as more faithful disciples. It can be a season of renewal through reflection.

During Lent all the readings focus on a theme. The First Sunday of Lent reminds us that though we are tempted, with the help of God, we can be faithful. The story of Jesus' temptations reminds us and is possibly built on the temptations of Israel in the desert during the time of the Exodus. The desert in scripture is an ambivalent place. It is a dangerous place with wild animals and gangs of bandits. It was thought to be a place where demons lived. Yet it was also the place where Israel was born. There, God formed her and led her.

We know that Israel, as a people, were not always faithful. Even while God protected and fed the people with manna, Israel murmured and rebelled. One time Moses thought that God would destroy Israel for failing to respond to God's care. On the other hand the prophets sometimes talked about it as the place where God, like a bridegroom, was wedded to Israel. So where Israel failed in the temptations, Jesus, the new Israel, was faithful to God. The Book of Deuteronomy calls the desert the place of Israel's testing. Luke shows Jesus as overcoming all tests. Like Moses and Elijah, Jesus fasted and communed with God about his mission.

Luke, in his Gospel, tells of the role of the Spirit. So we see that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert. He had been filled with the Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan. Now the Spirit leads him as the Spirit will do often in his life and later the same Spirit will lead the church. So in the desert three times in different places the devil challenges Jesus to go against God. Three times Jesus quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy and lives up to his calling by the Spirit. He is faithful even if Israel had not been when it was in the desert.

Our first reading is from that Book of Deuteronomy. Our reading contains one of the greatest creeds found in Bible. It is a profession of faith in which belief in God's saving acts are emphasized. It tells of how Israel began in a humble way, how Israel was freed from the slavery of Egypt, and how God had given land to Israel as its homeland. Above all the greatness of God is stressed. It is based upon Israel's historical experience reminding her that she should be faithful.

Paul's words to the Romans tell us how important faith is. Looking back at salvation history, Paul gives a christological interpretation to all that has happened. In turn Paul points to how it is through Christ that salvation is offered to all. It is this central role of Christ in all that has happened and will happen that occupies Paul's attention. He wants to tell the members of the church in Rome how important Christ is and how important opening their hearts and minds to Christ's saving power is. He reminds them that it is by faith that they are saved.

So we have important ideas to reflect on during this week. It is a time in which we can ask how we have responded to God's saving love. Are we faithful to that call? Do we resist the temptations of life around us? We must profess our faith and live by it.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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