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Father Muench Says...

As members of God’s Kingdom, we all matter

Feb. 28, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I hope that you remember the Gospel reading at Mass on the First Sunday of Lent.  Each year the Gospel reading on that Sunday is the same  story which appears in each of the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.  When I read this I think of Jesus making a retreat in preparation for his public ministry.

This story has become an image for our Lent.  The desert that Jesus entered was not one of those sand dune kinds.  Rather, it was a barren, rocky, unproductive land.  Truly it still is a desert.  It never rains there.

My experience of a desert was the stretch of land around our parish in Mollendo, Peru. All the way up to the city of Arequipa, a trip of about 50 miles, it is all desert, a rocky and barren land.  What I discovered was that the desert soil was productive; all it needed was water.

Halfway up the road to the city, there is an irrigation project.  A section of this desert is heavily irrigated and it is green. The land is truly productive with crops and animals.  It is quite a sight!

The section of the country is rather spectacular all because of water.  The rest of the area in between is barren and rocky with no water.

The Gospel story tells us that in the desert Jesus was tempted by Satan.  I have no idea what this experience was like for Jesus but I have some thoughts of my own about this situation. 

So, I want you to consider this scenario. Do you suppose the tempter was trying to discourage Jesus from ever beginning this public ministry, his teaching and preaching to come?

The challenge might have been this: “You are only one person. What can one person accomplish? No one is going to listen to you. No one is going to accept you. You are going to be disappointed. All this will fail.”

Of course, Jesus was never distracted by all this.

I have a feeling that all of us have suffered through similar temptations, maybe many times.  Such a temptation begins with doubts about ourselves, as a person.  After all, you are only one person – do you really matter?  Do you think you have any real value?  Does what you do or say really matter to anyone?  Can you ever believe that the way you live your Christian life will bring anyone closer to the Lord?

Will it ever make the world a better place?

I can tell you that I know that many times I have been confronted with just such temptations.  Certainly, I was just one person – would anyone really care what I did or said or wrote.  Have you ever been there?  I suspect you have.

Jesus came to our world and continues to come to us to help us overcome just such temptations.  Jesus’ message through Scriptures and through our Catholic Church is that our lives matter. They are important and meaningful to God. We are disciples of the Lord and the Lord needs us to bring his message to our world.

Jesus wants us to be members of the Kingdom of God and, as such, we truly matter. Our actions demonstrate our own commitment to our faith in the Lord and the message of Jesus. We are witnesses to our belief in God before the whole world, our world.

You do matter. Jesus wants you to be his disciples in all ways, in all that we do and say.  Let the world know and recognize our faith in Jesus.  People notice you.

Finally, a quote from Thomas Merton from his book, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:” To live well myself is my first and essential contribution to the well-being of all mankind and to the fulfillment of our collective destiny.  If I do not live happily myself how can I help anyone else to be happy, or free, or wise?”

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