It has been a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. The pictures show the devastation that has taken place in Ukraine. Countless people have died because of the fighting. It is as if World War III is being waged in Ukraine, as many nations supply weapons for both sides. How unspeakable as a global community we allow these atrocities to take place, there seems to be little effort at bringing the fighting to an end.
Recently mass shootings have been reported in Memphis, Tennessee; Tate County, Mississippi; East Lansing, Michigan. Sadly, mass shootings are the rule rather than the exception. Daily people die from gun violence in their homes, places of work and entertainment, and in the streets. Last weekend, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, was shot to death. Gun violence has become so common place, that we are almost desensitized by the incidents. It is obvious that what we are doing in this country to end gun violence is not working.
May God stir hearts to thoughts and actions of peace; and comfort those who are grieving.
Against this backdrop is our annual reading of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. These temptations are not about the personal struggles Jesus had in his ministry. They are about the clashing of kingdoms — the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of Satan.
In this battle we see Jesus prevail. At the core it is not about whether Jesus is the Son of God. The question is what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God. For Jesus to be the Son of God means being obedient to God and God’s plan for salvation. Salvation will be achieved through his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus accomplishes this salvation not through awe and power. He doesn’t transform stones into bread. He doesn’t wow the crowd by leaping from heights and having angels save him. He doesn’t perform all kinds of magical deeds. Rather Jesus brings this salvation through service, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and love.
By the Spirit we too are led into this clashing of the kingdoms — the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of Satan. Adam and Eve, through partaking of the forbidden fruit, illustrate that humans do succumb to the kingdom of Satan. Original sin isn’t so much a stain on our souls, as that we are born into a world where sin is present. The cleansing waters of baptism provide us the graces to fight off temptation and to join others in helping the kingdom of God to prevail. The question isn’t are we a child of God but what does it mean for us to be a child of God.
To be children of God is to rely on the power of God. In our lives we are to be a people of service, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and love. To be a people who see the needs of another before focusing on one’s own needs and wants. To be a people who can welcome all as Christ. To be a people who are on fire with the Spirit, who can bring the good news of a caring God even to the hurting. To be a people who seek forgiveness instead of revenge. Willing to take the first step even though we think the other should initiate. To be a people who respect all people even that person, who bothers us, has hurt us deeply, or is a foreigner.
Lent is a time to rededicate ourselves to our baptism and to work for the furthering of God’s kingdom.