Reflection for the First Sunday in Lent
Sister Connie Krstolic, OSB | March 5, 2017
Let’s see if you are as old as I am? Ready? In the Baltimore Catechism with which I grew up the first question was “Who made you?” The answer was: “God made me to know Him to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next.” There was another question, later on, “What is ‘man’” …or today we would say……..What is a human being? …The answer: “…a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.”
In our first reading this evening, we heard that the cross is a complete joke to those who do not believe…but to those who do believe it is the power of God. It is the empowerment of God. (1 Cor. 1:18f)
We are made in the image and likeness of God, (Gen. 1:27), and with arms out stretched, we are made in the image of the cross. We who believe have taken on the gift of being empowered by God to share God’s ministry here with our brothers & sisters… empowered with God’s gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, inclusiveness, forgiveness, compassion…. sound familiar? Paul speaks of these fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
With His arms outstretched, Jesus died for us on the cross. Jesus lovingly embraced our wrong-doings, forgave us and blessed us with His gift of freedom. Once Jesus sets us free, we are indeed free. (John 8:36)
With our arms outstretched, then, they can be bent to embrace. Arms outstretched, bent to include. Arms outstretched, bent to welcome. Arms outstretched, bent to touch the broken hearted and those in need of belonging…in need of healing….of forgiveness.
Our arms outstretched witness His cross of inclusiveness which we actively share with those with whom we journey in our life time.
Images of the cross abound. Look around at the crosses in this chapel. There are plenty of outstretched arms…smile) With open eyes, we see crosses on highways…there are telephone poles made of cross beams…in our monastery when the sliding door down the main hall are shut, there is a cross,… in the dining room there are crosses where the patio door screens are ….. In our train-town, there is the logo for the Santa Fe Train…a cross within a circle…a cross of Holy Faith, Santa Fe, within an inclusive circle.
Crosses, though, aren’t always made of smooth wood; they are not always pretty. Sometimes, there are splinters in the wood. Sometimes, they are overwhelmingly frightening in design. Sometimes, we experience the splinters of temptations and call them our crosses.
This evening we hear again a familiar account: the temptations of Jesus. And what were these temptations? They were what we experience in our own life’s journey. There was the struggle to fulfill simple physical needs which we all have and the temptation that dealt with the psychological need to exercise power and control over others-the hunger for prestige and power. Temptations are not limited to a specific place. For Jesus, there was the wilderness, the high mountain and a very high point of the temple.
Where are we most vulnerable to temptations? How do we embrace them? How do we give God the freedom to bring good out of them for us? (Romans 8:28)
What is the deepest desire of our hearts as this Lenten Journey begins? Whatever it is, we must ready ourselves for testing, for temptations. It is true, you know, that the closer we desire to get to God, the more roadblocks we will encounter….temptations. It is then that we become most vulnerable to the harassment of the evil presence around us. No one is or will be exempt from temptation. There is no spiritual level in this world where Evil can’t find us. For temptation is an ongoing, everyday experience, and we can be tempted even by good things which knock us off focus.
Each one of us is different. Each one of us knows, especially when we are quiet, what God is asking to take from us that would make us one with Him and with one another.
It is through the power of our Baptism that we can take authority over evil as we come face to face with it. We have been taught in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4:17-18) that there is power in the Name of Jesus. Let us not be fearful in using the Name when we experience temptations. “In the Name of Jesus, I take authority over the evil that has come against me and I place it on Your cross.”….giving God the freedom to heal us and set us free.
We sign ourselves with this freedom throughout the day… Walking into this chapel, we sign ourselves with the cross. Beginning prayers…at Eucharist….before the gospel, we ask through the sign of the cross that our minds, lips and heart be open to the Word of God….at meals…so many times during the day, we remind ourselves of the power of the cross of Jesus.
Let us remember the gift of the cross, let us embrace the cross Jesus offers, let us give God the opportunity to use us to give this gift of freedom away to our brothers and sisters in concrete ways. (Matthew 10:8)
All will be well…..however be careful not to become complacent during our 40 days….for Luke’s account of this passage ends with…..”The devil left Him only to await another opportunity.” (Luke 4:13)