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March 5 Urama, SJ - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

First Sunday of Lent Year A

March 5, 2017

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalms 51:3-6, 12-13, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

by *Fr. Jamesylvester Urama, SJ

The endgame of temptation is violence unleashed and disarray. The kingdom of God in Christ suffers violence. The evil one tempts by wearing out our capacity to remain faithful to the purpose, for which we are created: stewards and God’s servants on earth. Lent echoes Jesus’ fasting and praying and reminds us of Israel’s 40-year desert experience. On the one hand, it is a period of the dark night of the soul. On the other hand, it invites us to intensify our prayer, our watchfulness, our reception of the sacraments and our daily acts of charity. We are called to put on Christ’s apron of service and be hosts to others.

Today’s Gospel underlines one fact: in Jesus Christ, the apron of Christ service is suffering violence. The first reading from Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 recounts the sins of our first parents: sinning, they prepare for themselves aprons of shame and guilt. In God’s mercy, their aprons of filth are replaced by God’s modest clothing. In the Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus’s apron of service remains unsoiled by the heckling of the evil one. In tempting Jesus, the evil one usurps the position of being a host to all human rewards and greatness.

In Luke 12: 37, Jesus sets out his manifesto of service. From being a servant leader, he urges us to serve. We will be subjected to the world’s offerings that come in the way of serving in the name of Christ Jesus.

In today’s Gospel reading, the evil one exploits our deepest human desires: food (biophysical nourishment), fame (recognition of greatness) and falsity (false ideas) as opposed to facticity. In these temptations, Jesus is shown the possibilities of his power:  he is urged to forget his down-to-earth humanity and THROW HIS DIVINITY AROUND, if he had one. When did the evil one create the world to become a host for Jesus Christ (Psalm 24: 1; 1 Cor. 10: 26)? Has God relinquished God’s sovereignty? The second reading (Rom 5:12-19) celebrates this victory of grace over sins through Jesus’ obedience: “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

Jesus chooses to go the human way: earthy and vulnerable. A point is that the evil one plays on our capacity to create and to imagine possibilities. A sane approach to life is diametrically opposed to “I can… therefore, I do”. Yes, Jesus can do all these suggestions of the evil one. Why would he prove himself to an invitation that detracts from his original intention of abiding with humans? The one who receives the ministration of the angels is a minister of humans. Yes, for the Son of man came not to be served but to serve… (Mk 10: 45). He is a servant of God; he is girded in his apron (girdle) of service. Christ, the firstborn of all brethren, walks his talks: whoever wants to be first must be a servant of all (Mk 10: 44).

Having exhausted the ruse of the evil one, Jesus is left alone. The devil left him! Christ Jesus represents for us the victory of God over evil and all who do evil (d’evil). “Even” the Son of man comes to serve. Purposefully and resolutely, Jesus places himself within the human habitation. He dwells with us and he is tempted in every way. He becomes sin without sinning (2 Cor 5: 21). Jesus not only becomes a servant leader but a host. He invites us into our own humanity. During the mixing of wine and water at the Eucharist, the priest echoes this saving position of Christ for our humanity “by the mingling of this water and wine, may we share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

Christ Jesus comingles with us. He brings the divine primal experience of his perichoresis (intermingling of services and self-giving within the Blessed Trinity). He pours his divine self. He reveals all. Nothing is hidden. The mystery of God in Christ comes home to humans. The dust that is human (soil) is raised to divinity. The eastern fathers recognised that Christ became humans that we might become God. Made a little less than gods, human beings are co-opted with the clear victory of God in Christ: I have overcome all evils.

Our response to this sheer gift of Christ’s eternal pedagogy for the humble and the humans ought to allow us to be true to ourselves. Humanity is not evil. Evil inheres in evil intent we harbour in the inner recesses of our hearts. If we are righteous, what can we give to God? What can God receive from our hands (Job 35: 7)? In Christ, the grace of God is unleashed.

May the mind of Christ, his choice of serving without lording it over others, be ours. May Jesus who was a Son and learned obedience through suffering continue to console us with the fragrance of his presence (Heb 5: 8). May he who goes through the human condition heal our bruised hearts and dissonant minds. May we imitate the One, who rules well in his own house (1 Tim 3: 4). Lent is a time of watching and waiting: may we put our apron of service as we wait for our Lord and Master. The same quality for waiting for the coming of the Lord is the same disposition we need to cooperate with the grace of God to overcome all evils. May we be ever-ready to open the doors of our hearts to our Christ (Luke 12: 36).

*Fr. Jamesylvester Urama, SJ is a  professional helper: a coach, counsellor, relationship consultant, and therapist who works at the St. Ignatius Centre in Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria. 

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