Choosing to Love God
Jesus could have chosen to do a lot of marvels in his earthly life and beyond simply because he does have the power to make miracles happen. Without dismissing that every single day, every moment of our lives is indeed a miracle, we find ourselves wanting of many other wonders from our Savior. In fact, in our prayers, we have designed so many proposed miracles in our lives thinking it is for the best. Some of these may have seen the light of the day but many others we label as “unanswered” or “it fell on deaf ears.” We grapple with reality, and struggle with understanding God’s ways.
Our Gospel today, on this 1st Sunday of Lent, shows that there is a pattern in God’s plan of salvation. Jesus does not do things at random just because he can. He chooses the way of love which is the way of the Father. So, on three occasions he put his foot down against what would negate the love of God.
First, Jesus said no to turning stones into bread! If Godly power can raise sons of Abraham from stones (cf. Mt 3:9), definitely turning a stone into bread would be peanuts. Human beings need nourishment, no question about that. But the need for food or any other human need for that matter can never be the center of one’s existence. To be driven by the satisfaction of our needs and wants is to be waylaid in our journey. There is sustenance far superior to bread, and that is the word of God.
Second, Jesus said no to putting God to the test by unnecessarily risking one’s life; and no to taunting and demeaning the value of laying down one’s life to the point of martyrdom and annihilation! The temptation twists the great loving act of God’s self-giving in Jesus, attempting to reduce it to a mere spectacle and show of power in duplicitous way, i.e. in the guise of proving God true and faithful to his word. Thereby, it subtly undermines Jesus’ rebuttal in the first temptation. Jesus knew better. He would lay down his life for the love God and neighbor, in an act of total self-giving.
Third, Jesus said no to betraying God in the name of material wealth and power! Jesus worships the Father more completely not just in prayer but also with his actions by doing only the Father’s will. Worldly riches and dominance as ends in themselves are passing and meaningless. They deceive many with the promise of self-fulfillment and happiness when their pursuit goes against the grain of loving and sharing. But they would have no hold on someone who has known true wealth and power in eternity – Jesus!
By saying no to all these temptations, Jesus showed the way of salvation toward an existence beyond satisfaction of one’s needs and wants. Next time we want Jesus to work a miracle in our life, let us pause for a while and ask ourselves: “Is it right along the alley of loving God and neighbor?”