First Sunday of Lent, Year A-2011

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
I will test them as gold is tested (Zech. 13:9—NAB)

Our first parents did not pass the test. Neither did Israel, the son or chosen people of God, during the sojourn of forty years in the desert under divine guidance. But Jesus, the Son of God, did pass the test during his retreat of forty days and forty nights in the desert into where he was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.

For passing the test, Jesus has become the new Adam, the new Israel and head of the new people of God. Hence, believers are now encouraged to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus so that they too may pass the test and not grow weary and lose heart as they continue in their pilgrimage and in running the race that lies before them (cf. Heb. 12:1-3). By following Jesus, believers who consider Abraham their father—he passed the test also and thus became the father of believers—will prove themselves worthy of their father and they will have a faith even stronger than the faith of this patriarch. After all, Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith, given, for instance, that God did not spare him, while Abrahan was spared from having to sacrifice his only and beloved son, Isaac (Gen.22 ; Rom. 8:32). On account of him who was handed over for all of us, we have confidence that everything else along with him will be given us, including victory in time of temptations. Because Jesus himself was tested, he is able to help us who are also being tested (Heb. 2:18; 4:16).

Jesus came to the help, of course, of St. Vincent de Paul, and so the latter did not remain simply as the Monsieur Vincent, who, as Father Jaime V. Corera, C.M., tells it [1], wanted to be ordained priest even when did not meet the required age, not so he could soon celebrate with angelic devotion his first Mass, but so he could immediately become a pastor of a parish and thus be able to collect the 300 pounds or so that came with the office in the France of his time. There was nothing ignoble, for sure, in Vincent’s being determined to go after an honorable retirement so he could spend the rest of his days by his mother’s side and be of service to his family [2], anymore than there is anything wrong in a hungry person wanting to have something to eat. But it happens not rarely that our worries about life stand in the way of our loving the Lord, our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength.

And we not only get anxious about our life, about what we will eat or drink or clothe ourselves with. We worry too about so many other things such as the best deodorant or mouthwash to use, the healthiest diet to have to keep our figure, the latest style or fad or status symbol that could get us ahead of our neighbors, the most wonderful vacation to spend, the most comfortable, secure, notable and exclusive position to take. With so such worries and so many anxietiesd, chances are we will fail—unless Jesus comes to our rescue—to recognize the truth in the teaching: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Likewise, without Jesus’ help, Vincent would not have given the priority to the most important thing of all and he would have continued looking for bread only for himself, his family or his tribe, showing himself, therefore, to be blind to the needs of other poor souls, indifferent to their sufferings and deaf to their cries. Vincent would have preferred being served to serving, had it not been for the efficacious grace and moving example of Jesus, who became poor to make us rich and who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom (2 Cor. 8:9; Mt. 20:28). Jesus did not take advantage of his Father’s power or of the homage or tributes paid by men to wonder workers. He knew very well that he was at his Father’s beck and call, and not the Father at his beck and call [3]. And had Vincent not taken seriously the divine words, “The Lord, your God, you shall worship and him alone shall you serve,” at what height, or perhaps depth, of idolatry could he have arrived, caught up as he was in his own needs and ambitions?

And if we, murmuring and arguing among ourselves, reject the teaching—because we find it hard—that Jesus’ flesh is real food and his blood true drink, then we will go not the way of St. Vincent, but rather the way of our first parents or of the Israelites who died even though they had eaten manna in the desert (cf. Jn. 6:25-60). One then has to accept Jesus as he presents himself and in accordance with God’s revelation, and not according to the distortion of his identity that the devil continue trying to promote. Surely, the devil does so in order to derail the Messiah’s mission and to see to it that nobody passes the test.


NOTES:


[1] Vida del Señor Vicente (Salamanca: Editorial CEME, 1989) 11.
[2] P. Coste I, 18.
[3] Cf. Intervarsity-Press Commentary at http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Gods-Son-Passes-Test (accessed March 10, 2011).