1st Sunday of Lent C

“My father was a wandering Aramean.”  These words from the first reading recount the words spoken as a sacrifice is given at the Temple.  More importantly, it the Hebrew Scripture’s way of saving in the Bible the answer to a very important question posed every Passover by the youngest child to the Father.  “Why is this night different from every other night?”  “My father was a wandering Aramean,” begins the long explanation of the rescue of the Israelite slaves from their oppression in Egypt.  The exodus gave and gives identity to the entire Jewish people.  That is why it does not say that Jacob’s father was a wandering Aramean or Abraham’s father was.  All the people claimed that story as their own, for it is the time they knew they were chosen by a loving God as a chosen people. Everyone belonged to this story – everyone’s father was a wandering Aramean, and thus a people were forged.

Jesus, who as a child asked the question at Passover to Joseph is to form a new people of God based on a new kingdom.  To do so, he must share in the story of humanity; to be truly a human being who lived, loved, lost, exalted and cried with us. He cannot form a people from the outside, he must be one of us to build the kingdom of God.  That is the daring promise of the incarnation.

And that is through that lens through which to see the temptation scene.  After all, isn’t each temptation of the devil for Jesus to abandon his humanity?  You just fasted for 40 days, the devil says.  If you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread.  And surely Christ can do so, but he chooses to be hungry like us.  At the cost of worshipping the devil, he can have power over the world that should belong to him anyway, but he rejects the power over others for the sake of the power to serve others.  And surely angels would rescue him if he were to fall off the Temple, but Jesus has become human not to avoid suffering, but to embrace it all the way to the cross.  He would not be much of a human if he did know pain; we could not identify with him if he were invulnerable. He is not God masquerading as a human. He carries the same burdens, but with more grace, care and understanding.  He is one of us.  A new people of God can be born.

And because he identified with us in our humanity, we can identify with his divinity.  Through confession on our lips and belief in our hearts, we are saved. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.”  Every barrier is broken so we can be one with God.

This new people of God is now formed by identifying with Christ as Christ identifies with us.  But to truly understand the depth of the identification, one must start where Jesus starts – with the lowliest, the forgotten and discarded.  He identifies with those we might easily dismiss as not one of us, to exclude from this new people.  But Jesus’ identity with them makes it impossible for us not to include the least of our brothers and sisters.  So we no longer tell our story by saying, “My father was a wandering Aramean.”  We now say, “My father is homeless and shivering in the bone chilling cold of last night.”  “My brother is a poor immigrant living in fear each day.”  “My sister is an addict and needs the gift of hope.”  “My brother is gay and does not know if he will be accepted by our church.” “My sister is divorced and fears there is no room for her at our table.”  “My child is bullied and feels he is getting smaller each day.”

We will truly not be there until we shed a tear when others cry, until we rejoice in the laughter of others, until we feel their pangs when others’ hunger.  But if we can do this, then we will join Christ in the seat of mercy for we will see each other as Christ sees us.  Then we will truly established as the new and chosen people of God.