HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C (FEB 14)
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
What is it about human beings that they tend to forget what has been done for them and go back to their old ways so easily. How hard it is to keep alive the memory of horrific events like the Holocaust so that we won’t repeat them. How easy it is to forget the good someone has done us with the least offense that occurs or when provoked.
The Hebrews kept forgetting God. They kept forgetting how God had called them together as a nation, favored them and saved them. Within 40 years of the event of the Exodus the people had forgotten what God had done, were busy grumbling over the poor conditions they faced, even forgetting the promises God had made to them if they remained faithful.
So it is not unreasonable that Moses over and over again tries to bring his people back to God. In today’s reading the people are being prepared for entrance into the land they had been promised but many of them did not know the stories of their past, especially the way God chose them and rescued them. So Moses in his role as teacher and prophet once again goes through the story of their salvation, and tells them that they must repeat this story each time they make sacrifice or bring gifts to the altar so that they never forget again.
In stark contrast to this story of the Hebrew’s forgetfulness of God and his laws, Jesus never forgets even in the direst of circumstances, when he is half starving and and deprived. The devil tempts him to forget, tempts him to sins of pride and power and arrogance, but Jesus does not succumb.
The devil tempts Jesus to use his divinity for personal gain. Knowing that he was starving after fasting 40 days, he tempts him to turn stones into bread. Then he attempted to get Jesus to turn away from God in order to achieve personal power. Satan asks Jesus to worship him. Finally, he asks Jesus to prove his divinity by jumping off a building and allowing angels to catch and protect him, thus showing everyone he was a god himself.
But Jesus will have none of it. He quotes Scripture back at the devil showing the devil how each of these things was wrong. He does not forget the Law as his people had so many times before him.
This humility on Jesus part, this taking on the form of humanity and living it fully is why St. Paul can say in Romans that we too cannot forget. We cannot forget what Jesus has done and who Jesus is. We confess to others what he has done and we believe it in our hearts, and the result of that is “justification.” We are saved by believing and confessing that Jesus is Lord.
How many of us forget in our daily lives the very thing that has given us the community called Christian and the saving grace that has allowed or sins and transgressions to be forgiven. Just as the Jews did nothing special to merit God choosing them, so we have not done anything to merit our salvation from God. So we must never forget.
Our psalm today which the devil quoted to Jesus is about God’s promise to save the one who believes: “The one who loves me, I will deliver”, God says; I will protect the one who knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him.” How wonderful to know that if can constantly recall our being chosen by God, and believe in Jesus that we will merit such reward.
Of course, this is not always easy to do. Just as the Jews grumbled when they got into trouble or got hungry or tired, we tend to do the same things. We need to look at the larger picture, stay faithful, stay strong in our belief and we will be rewarded, our prayers will be answered, we will be protected.
This is the first Sunday in Lent, a time when we start to examine our past year in terms of how we have remembered our God and how we have professed what we believe. Lent is a time of reflection as we start with the awareness of our limits, the fact that will die and have to make a reckoning, and a chance to again get our spiritual houses in order. We do this yearly in order that we don’t forget, and this is the exact thing that Moses set up to help his own people not to forget as well.
And this is the Good News of our yearly recollection and remembrance.