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The World,

the Flesh,

the Devil!

Lenten meditations on justice and peace

The First Sunday of Lent, March 1, 1998

Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10, Psalm 91, Romans 10:8-13, Luke 4:1-13

The temptations of Christ encompass the sins of all humanity. "Turn these stones into bread" -- yield to those fleshly desires. "Glory of these kingdoms" -- the overwhelming desires for power and profit at any price. "Throw yourself" -- unjust use of power, you shall be as gods! The flesh, the world, and the devil, that ancient unholy trinity which remains a plague upon all humanity to this very day.

A critical question is the just and unjust use of power. This is a reflection on the large macro-structures of politics and governance and the basic experiences of day to day living, participation in civil society, and the marketplace. The executive who gets angry at "subordinates" and those who regularly abuse sales clerks, waitresses, and customer service representatives should stop and ask themselves about this unjust abuse of power, privilege, and status.

Consider the example of Jesus, who had all power, but he nevertheless became the servant of all, even unto death. If Jesus had been the rich and powerful son of a Roman senator, he might not have been treated so poorly. To suggest that class prejudice is not a problem in this world is to be wilfully blind to reality. Since denial is not an option, what can we do about this?

This is something of what Moses was getting at in this liturgical rubric for a prosperous day of feasting and gladness. When you have first fruits from the land of milk and honey, remember the time when you were a slave and a refugee and remember that the Lord your God has brought you salvation and liberation, which -- as St. Paul reminds us and the Romans -- is open to everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.

Where do the temptations of Christ afflict you? What fleshly desires tempt you? How does power and profit affect you? How just are you in the exercise of whatever power you may have in family, church, society, government? In the time of your prosperity, do you remember the time when you were in need? In the time of your prosperity, do you stand in solidarity with those who remain in need? In the time of your prosperity, can you embrace a poverty of spirit that opens your soul deeply to hunger for God?

Prayer intentions:

+ For all those who exercise power and responsibility, that they will seek justice and peace, not domination nor greed, we pray to the Lord.

+ For those who are victims of the unjust exercise of authority and responsibility, that they will be comforted, strengthened, and in the hour of their need, brought to a place of refuge, safety, justice, and reconciliation.

Praxis today:

+ Attend mass and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in community with other Christians. During the prayers of the people, pray in a special way for those on your reconciliation and poverty lists.

+ Start making a list of your sins. Be aware of incidents of just and unjust exercise of authority. Strictly examine your own use of power, authority, and responsibility.

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