The Book of Deuteronomy (26:4-10) points out the need for constant gratitude for the freedom that God provides for his people: be it freedom from the oppression of Egypt, be it, as in our case today, freedom from the slavery of falsehood, deception, darkness and sin. It is freedom from all those ugly situations and conditions for which no one else can be of any substantial help.
At Mass, we gather to execute the order that Jesus gave us during the Last Supper, to “do Eucharist,” to give thanks to God the Father, in memory of the freedom that Jesus gained for us on the cross.
In the Gospel of John (14:6) Jesus revealed himself to us as the Way, the Way to genuine freedom from any sort of slavery, falsehood, deception, darkness and sin. Those of us who are not young any more, those among us, who have already been oppressed by one type of slavery or another; those who have been deceived; those who have been wandering in darkness and have fallen repeatedly into sin, know that Jesus is the Way, although he is the Way among countless other ways. In our mind we knew that Jesus alone is the only true Way, but we tried some of the other ways nonetheless.
Every 1st Sunday of Lent, we gather to carry out that order to do Eucharist but also to thank God especially for giving us Jesus as the only true Way to freedom, to Life. We need this because, in our frailty, we can be easily deceived. Falling victim to deception, falsehood, oppression, darkness, sin is not only for young, inexperienced people but also for old-timers, who should know better.
So, today, all of us, young and old alike, will recall the fact that Jesus, as the Way, has been tried by three grueling tests when he was at his lowest ebb as a human being. He was alone, hungry and depleted of energies. His weapons of choice were the guidance of the Holy Spirit (he was led to the desert by the Spirit), the light of God’s Word and the love of the Father.
A clarification is necessary at this point: the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the light of God’s Word and the unfailing love of the Father are readily available to us too. However, since we are so easily deceived by the father of lies (Satan) and by his minions scattered all over the world, we need a way, a template, an answer key to sort things out.
This is crucial because there are many spirits, but only one Holy Spirit. There are countless interpretations of God’s Word (think that in our country alone there are over 30,000 Protestant groups claiming to have the correct interpretation and, therefore, the right answers.); in our Gospel passage (Luke 4:1-13), the devil himself quotes from the Bible to get Jesus to agree with him.
And evidence of God’s unfailing love for us is the first casualty of a weak faith especially whenever we are suffering, fearful or tested to the limits of our endurance. This is the reason why every 1st Sunday of Lent, the Church presents to us Jesus Christ as the true, most accurate answer key in any decision we must make in our daily life.
Relying on Jesus’ answers to Satan’s suggestions, we can apply both a negative and a positive analysis to the decision we are considering. Every time we should ask ourselves: “What would Jesus choose?”
- Negatively, we should ask: does this choice of mine exclude instant gratification, selfishness, the easy way out without personal cost?
- Does this choice of mine exclude manipulation, deception and/or ulterior motives to get what I want?
- Does this choice of mine exclude circus stunts, trickery or dazzling feats without substance?
- Positively, we should ask: does this choice of mine help me embrace the inevitable hardships that come with it?
- Does it make me willing to give of myself in humble and joyous service to others?
- Does it call for compassion, gentleness, endurance, perseverance and hard work, enduring hope and constancy?
This is the answer key that Jesus offers us today. He is truly the only genuine Way to the freedom of God’s children and to the promised land of heaven. Any other answer key, far from being accurate, would actually lead us down the road to perdition and self-destruction.
Jesus’ answer key can be used anytime, anywhere, by anyone and for big and small decisions alike. Basically, it is the one most opposed by the self-absorbed wisdom of this world because it holds that the only way to victory, to freedom, to glory is through the cross: i.e., personal sacrifice, genuine love and joyous service of others.
At Eucharist, we gather to offer our heartfelt thanks to God for the freedom we have in Jesus’ Blood and for Jesus being our true Way to endless Life. Yes, for us Jesus is the Way, the answer key that we choose for the rest of our days on earth!