First Sunday of Lent (C)
One of the tendencies of man is to accumulate things for himself. (He is like one who won the lottery and was debating within himself how much he would give to God and how much he would retain for himself. Then he thought of a brilliant idea. He got all his money and said: now God, as you have been bothering me with what I’d give to you and with what I’d keep for myself, this is what I will do. I will throw the money in the air. Whatever goes up is yours, and whatever comes down is mine.)
Another tendency that man has is to undervalue what he has and to overrate his capacity over others. If he has a new house he says it’s small and not yet complete. If he has a car he thinks it’s not as nice as his neighbor’s. He looks into his refrigerator, and says there is nothing to eat, even though it’s full. When he sees his neighbor, he thinks he is better than him. Everybody, but he, is out of place. Many times he even wants to prove others wrong just for anything.
The Israelites had so much. They had God, His power and His promises. However, they envied their neighbors that worshipped gods and enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh and of the world. The Israelites imitated them, and ended up losing much of what they had. They lost battles. They lost property, warriors, women and children.
In our affluence (or seeming affluence) we tend to ignore others and be absorbed with ourselves and with worldly things. In his reflection for the Lenten season (2010) on the justice of God, Pope Benedict XVI writes that besides man’s basic needs, like food, clothing, housing, he also needs love and hope. God created us especially to be with Him and share His Kingdom. Pope Benedict writes: “Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine – yet “distributive” justice does not render to the human being the totality of his “due.” Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God” (“The Justice of God Has Been Manifested Through Faith in Jesus Christ,” Vatican, Oct. 30 2009). Thus, man’s need for God is even more essential than his basic needs, as God hears the cry of the poor and provides for all who trust in Him. God does not want us to make gods of worldly and fleeting things, but to proclaim Him as our God and live under His Kingship. We are not mere temporal beings. We are God’s children, and His forever.
It is said that gratitude is the memory of the heart. Since the very beginning, God already taught His people to give back to Him part of the produce of his land. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses proclaimed: “The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD…. He (God) brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm…. and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me” (Dt 26:4-10). In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul proclaims: “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…. for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor 9:6-8). In our participation in God’s redemptive act, we are an abundant blessing to His people and a means to salvation for all. Hence, in our consideration to be charitable to the Church and His people, let us always take into account how generous God is to us, to our families and to our community.
Again in his 2010 Lenten Message Pope Benedict declares: “Before the justice of the Cross…. man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship…. humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.” This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” We do not receive these Sacraments to tell Jesus what we want Him to do for us. We receive these as gifts. He tells us what to do, and thus become worthy of Him. Let us then make our devotion to these Sacraments more fervent and frequent, be grateful for and share with the Church all the blessings we receive, and we can enjoy our only authentic possession: God Himself.