Return to God with your heart and soul

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Bread. It is one of the four major food groups. It was sustenance for the Israelites throughout their journey in the desert. It was an essential part of the meal in which Jesus and His disciples shared. It was the source of revelation to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. For us as Catholics, when consecrated the bread becomes the Real Presence of Christ among us.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus is being tempted to draw away from God. The description of the temptations are the same temptations with which we struggle. In the example from Chapter 4, verse 4, Jesus has been praying and fasting for a long time, recalling the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert. He is hungry. So, He is taunted by the idea that he could turn stones into bread and fulfill his physical need. But Jesus tells us that bread alone is not enough. We need the bread salted with the Word of God. Jesus rejected the temptation to satisfy His human desire and sanctified the temptation by offering us the Word of God. We need to listen to God! Jesus was helping us to understand that listening to God is a matter of life. Life gives us the Word of God. During the celebration of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word is a “meal” prepared by the Lord to nourish our spiritual life. The meal of the Liturgy is a lavish one which draws largely from the treasures of the Bible — both the Old and the New Testaments, because in them, the Church proclaims the one and the same mystery of Christ.

During the season of Lent, we are ever mindful of returning to God with all our heart and soul. Reflecting on the Scripture of each day during Lent is a road map for us as we take up this journey to return to God. The temptations Jesus experienced are temptations of not only power, but trust. The temptations imply that God the Father will not provide for His son, Jesus. Jesus’ implicit trust in His heavenly father strengthens His rejection of the temptations. By receiving the Word of God, we too will find strength to stay the course with God. We might not be tempted to turn stones into bread; but, we are constantly tempted to mistrust God’s readiness to empower us to face our trials.

We should not be fooled, either, by thinking the temptations are one dimensional — about dishonesty, bullying, etc. The temptations Jesus experienced are vocational and He shows us the way of living all the days of our lives.

It is not enough to listen with our ears without welcoming the sustenance of the Word of God into our heart and allowing it to bear fruit. The Word of God makes a pathway within us. Pope Francis tell us, “We listen to the Word of God with our ears and it passes to our hearts; it does not remain in our ears; it must go to the heart. And from the heart, it passes to the hands, to good deeds. This is the path which the Word of God follows: from our ears to our heart and hands.”

The 492 elect who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation this Easter are counting upon our example of living the Word of God as they draw nearer to God. Jesus shows us how to think about ourselves in relationship to God and thus in relationship to our immediate family and our extended family throughout the world. We cannot be indifferent to the possibility of encounter but should long for it. We care for the dignity of workers, the stability of families, the health of communities all intertwined as God’s creation.

As the Psalmist prays, “be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned” (Psalm 51). Through the obedience of the One, may we be made righteous.