1st Sunday of Lent Year C

We recently had a day of spirituality for the priests of the diocese to help us prepare for Lent.  And our facilitator asked each of us at the table to make comments on a sheet of paper with this Gospel upon it.  The wisest thing written on my sheet was sadly not mine.  It said, “Jesus chooses engagement over ease.”  Isn’t that something?  The opposite of ease in this case is not difficulty, but engagement.  The Devil constantly asks Jesus to separate himself out and away from others.  Having fasted for forty days, the Devil suggests to the very hungry Jesus to command the stone to turn to bread.  Surely, he could.  Then the Devil asks Jesus with a simple gesture towards him, he would hand over all the kingdoms of the world so he could reign as befits a king.  And although no one deserves that title more, Jesus rejects him.  He finally, he challenges Jesus to show off.  As scripture tells us, angels would bare him aloft if he were to jump off of the parapet of the Temple.  In each case the Devil offers an easy way out.  But that is not engagement.  Engagement means being among, with and for the people.  And it is always the choice of Jesus. 

And that is why we need to recall the original commitment to engagement – the incarnation – God becoming human.  In each instance the Devil asks Jesus not to be human.  But incarnation means to be fully human, alive to everything that is joyful, stressful and hurtful about being human.  Jesus will not turn the stone to bread, for how could he look another hungry person in the eye.  How dare he not be hungry when most are hungry?  Indeed, when more people will be hungry today than not.  And Jesus will not inherit power like the kings of the earth who enforce their authority by violence, who arrogantly exercise power over.  No, Jesus will stand with the oppressed; who suffer from the injustice imposed upon them by exactly the kind of power the Devil offers.   The brutalized, the silenced and the forgotten will know they have a friend in Christ.  And Jesus will not be saved by angels should he fall.  How would the suffering come to know him if he was about saving himself?  How would the vulnerable recognize themselves in Jesus if he were invulnerable?  How would the suffering know that God suffers too?  He will be thrown off the parapet of the Temple and he will not be saved by angels.  He will suffer the cuts and bruises and scorn and violence like so many before him.  He will be one with them.  And no angel comes except the one who gives him the courage to endure.

One of the great themes of social justice is solidarity; when we say we are all in this together.  And when you mention solidarity, you think nobody could be against it.  In fact, we always strain against it.  After all, we all look for something that makes us distinct, separate from others.  We are searching for an identity that is unique and gives us meaning.  The most convenient way to do that is to define ourselves against others.  Yet, Jesus, the most separate and distinct man who ever lived, one so separate that he is even on the other side of the creator/created divide, is the one who wants to be in most solidarity with others.  Like us in all things but sin.  If God became human so that humans might become God, then we too must be as incarnational as the Lord.

And if we are to be fully human like the Lord is fully human, we must live in solidarity. The only way to do that is to eliminate the third person in our lives.  The “Hes” and “Theys” must become “We.”  No longer can we say that I will not be like “those people” or want to be around “them.”  We cannot measure our success by how far we have distanced ourselves from the hungry and the poor.  We can claim our security by the showing the power we have over others.  We cannot rejoice in our own safety without tying ourselves to the reality of the most vulnerable.

If you are looking for a place where you can have it all; both security and vulnerability, an identity and solidarity, we are about to offer it.  For at this table, wherever and however we come from; if we come rich or poor, bitter or happy, desperate or hopeful, in love or broken-hearted, we all answer to the same name – the Body of Christ.  Here divisions are erased and melt into the grace of Jesus Christ.  God becomes incarnated in us and we become incarnated in God and in one another. 

And we are fully human.  And we are one.