Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|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
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.)