Living the Gospel – March 10, 2019

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Setting Captives Free 

In many ancient civilizations, the interactions of their gods with human beings were often characterized by caprice and inconsistency as well as distance. By contrast, the God revealed to our ancestors was known for intervening faithfully in human history by specific events with an astonishing attentiveness to human need. What is more, the quality of these events can be summed up by the words, “delivering, saving, rescuing, freeing.”

The book of Deuteronomy recites in a tight narrative the wonders of God’s intervention to free our Hebrew ancestors from slavery. The experience was not only a wondrous event but marked a decisive revelation of God: this is who God is, God is one who saves!

Jesus, whose very name means, “God saves,” breaks into human history in a way never foreseen by our ancestors. He comes to do battle with all that continues to enslave those whom God has created out of love: the power of sin, the power of Satan and the power of death itself.

The temptation of Jesus, then, marks not an isolated experience of Jesus’ early public life, but rather a revelation of God who has come daringly close, to deliver in his very person, the people whom he loves: “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son” (John 3, 16). We may see in the specific temptations which Jesus undergoes a battle with temptations to which every human heart is vulnerable: “Turn these stones into bread” – the temptation to live only “on bread alone,” to live as though material things are the only source of life. “I shall give you all this power and glory” – the temptation to amass reputation and wealth as false gods in an attempt to escape human vulnerability. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down . . .” – the very subtle temptation for believers: to presume no responsibility for our actions, since “God will take care of everything.”

Our Lenten journey begins, then, with an invitation to bring our hearts and lives before the Lord, especially those places where we are still held captive. We trust that Jesus remains the God who saves, who continues to do battle on our behalf so that Easter might find as slaves who have been set free.

by Rev. Richard Gabuzda
Creighton University’s Institute for Priestly Formation