Throughout Lent, our weekly ePrayers include a special series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings. This reflection for the First Sunday of Lent is from Unbound preacher Father Greg Schmitt, CSsR.
There is a term, known to most golfers but not found in any official golf writings. The term is “mulligan.” A “mulligan” is simply a “do over.” Playing partners may, by agreement, allow one or more of these during a round of golf. A mulligan means a bad shot magically disappears, allowing a better shot to take its place.
Matthew sees Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the desert as a kind of do over for the Israelites who compiled 40 years of repeated failures as they journeyed across the desert. While the Israelites doubted God’s faithfulness and even turned themselves to false gods, Jesus does the opposite. He refuses to let his physical hunger and the clever proposals by Satan tempt him to doubt God’s loving faithfulness.
First, the Israelites complained about not having food to eat, and again later about the quality of the food God provided. In refusing to leaven stones, Jesus recognizes that physical food isn’t the only kind. He announces that God’s word is the food that truly nourishes.
Secondly, the Israelites, on several occasions, set up tests for God. God needed to do what they demanded or they threatened to reject God. In contrast, Jesus rejects Satan’s proposal to throw himself off the parapet of the Temple to see if God would rush in to save him. God is not to be tested. God does not act just because we click our fingers.
Finally, the Israelites lost their confidence in God and danced around the golden calf they had deified. The devil offers Jesus the opportunity to possess the riches of the world if only he will fall down and pay Satan homage. Jesus responds, “The Lord your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Jesus, tracing the path of his ancestors in the desert, does a great do over. What happened before is reversed. The proper order between God and humans is restored. Jesus is setting up a new order of relationship between God and his people.
Jesus will call this new order the Kingdom of Heaven. It belongs to the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers and those who suffer for what is right.
It belongs to those we sponsor through Unbound and to us who reach out to them. Together we are the new order. We are the Kingdom. We walk out of the desert with Jesus to grow the Kingdom even more. Our relationship with God is mirrored in the relationships between sponsors and sponsored.
Thank goodness for do overs.
O Lord, victor over Satan in the desert and teacher on the Mount of the Beatitudes, you show us the way to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. Bless our sponsored ones and all with whom we walk in deserts and meet on mountains. Open us up to your Kingdom. Teach us to resist forces of evil and deceit and to embrace what you call blessed. Amen.