Faith in God

03-06-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In a very formal way, the Season of Lent begins this weekend; Ash Wednesday and the few days that follow it are “add-on” days to Lent. The scripture this weekend is the first formal launch into the Season of Lent. The scriptural message is quite clear for us in that we learn from the readings that trust in God will see us through in life. God will always act in life for us and for our ultimate good. We must simply have faith in God. Our Old Testament Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy reminds the Israelites that their (and our God) could not and would not ever forget or abandon them. The Israelites knew that when all the times they fell away from God, all they had to do was call out to God and ask him for his help and rescue.

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans about the necessity and power of faith. He tells us that those who have faith in Christ will not be put to shame. In fact, he writes that their shared faith will make them sisters and brothers in the Lord and also beneficiaries of God’s rich mercy.

Note in the Gospel passage how the ministry of Jesus began with an act of faith, an act of faith in God. This passage is about the Temptations of Jesus. We hear in the story that in the desert Jesus struggled over three tempting paths that were set before him: choosing possessions as symbolized in the bread; choosing dominion which is power and choosing popularity which brings celebrity status or fame. All three of these desires can mess with the human heart. Note how Jesus absolutely would have nothing to do with any of the three. He responded to these very seductive temptations by talking about His Mission and Ministry.

Note how Jesus refused to take any shortcuts or the easiest way out. He understood that these only actions lead to dead ends. He recalled His Baptism in the Jordan by John and the beginning of His Ministry. He recalled the words from above that identified him with the prophet Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of God: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit”. In addition, the long fast in the desert had identified Jesus with the long lasting suffering of his ancestors who had spent forty difficult years wandering in the desert.

Jesus’ strong refusal to be tempted by power and reject being messiah or leader showed how he was not tempted at all. Even though it is often difficult to do, He also rejected becoming a popular crowd pleaser. He chose instead to remain obedient to the will of God, obedient even to His death on the cross. Jesus made the decision to remain faithful to His Mission and Ministry

Trust or faith in God is at the center of all of the readings this weekend. The readings call our attention to two different aspects of our faith. They tell us that life constantly tests our faith as individuals and as God’s people. In addition, no matter what happens in our lives, we can continue to trust and have faith in God because God is ever faithful. God will never lose faith in us. God will support us and see us through.

In our desire and need to trust faithfully in God, we are no different from the ancient Israelites of our first reading or the earliest believers found in our second reading. The original listeners of Luke’s Gospel heard and could understand clearly the issue of trusting in God and keeping faith as they struggled to live as followers of Jesus in the earliest of time.

When we come to understand and accept that our God is a God we can trust, our daily life takes on a deeper meaning. We know that we will always be safe, for our God is with us.