First Sunday of Lent • Year A

Richard A. Young, O.S.A.
Providence Catholic High School
New Lenox, Illinois

Gn 12:1-4a
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.
2 Tm 1:8b-10
Mt 17:1-9

If. A small word. Packs a punch. Can instill doubt, make a person uncertain. Rehearse what was heard…or at least what was thought to be heard. Puts the memory to question.

I am taken by the fact that right after Jesus hears the voice of the Father declare that He is his beloved Son, after spending 40 days communing in the desert, a desert that he was led to by the Spirit, he is confronted by the Tempter. And the first word that Jesus hears spoken: if. If you are the Son of God…

This encounter, dare I say confrontation, is not a pious good versus evil event. This is an attempt to wipe away the memory of those words that speak of a relationship of faithful love. Look back to Genesis, the first reading today. We see a God who fashions the Man out of clay. Here he is – a piece of clay, transformed into a work of art. The Master Artist breathes his breath into his creation. Loves him, sharing that same divine breath…the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of God. The Tempter shows up there as well. Adam and Eve surrounded by paradise, created by God, icons of God. Somehow his words lulled them into forgetting who they were – image and likeness of God. Implied in the words of the Tempter: If you eat of the fruit, you will be like God. The beauty of the fruit, the doubt cast by those words. Somehow both the man and woman forget who they are, forget that relationship of faithful love that was theirs from the beginning. No need to recount further; we know the end of the story.

Fast forward to Jesus and the Tempter. Jesus does not take the bait. You are my beloved Son are words etched deep in his heart. He remembers…he knows who he is and whose he is. What are those voices in our hearts and minds, etched into our being from our childhood through our lives that entice us to forget who we are and whose we are? I believe that we are being led individually and as communities, and as a community, into the desert. And this, by the same Spirit – the Spirit that was breathed into us – the Spirit that led Jesus to the sacred place of the desert. We are being led into the desert so that we have time to listen to the truth of who we are. In Christ we are beloved children of God…each one of us. As Augustine said: God loves each of us as if we are the only one, and all of us as if we are but one.

It may be difficult to hear the words of love at times. Our Lenten journey, with (hopefully) Elect to remind us of our own share in the identity and mission of Christ, provides us with sacred space and time. A time to allow ourselves to be created anew, remembering our initiation into Christ, into his Paschal Mystery – together.

As we begin our sacred retreat, the same words of the Father echo in our hearts: you are my beloved. My prayer is that we take that “if” and turn it on its head…as we discover together who we are and whose we are – and this, without a doubt.