Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lenten Centerpiece: Meditations Week Five

The Temptation of Christ, Duccio
This week we will add a crown of thorns to our Interactive Lenten Centerpiece.  In keeping with my effort to keep this display as low-cost as possible, I made a crown of thorns out of my raspberry bush prunings.  Any branches with thorns could be used--blackberry, roses, wild brambles, etc.  When I made this crown, the scraping and poking of the thorns into my hands caused me to meditate on the terrible suffering of this part of our Lord's Passion. 
 Because the raspberry canes were stiff, the crown is fairly large and didn't fit onto the tray, so I put it off to the side, where I think it looks just fine.  Remember, the purpose is to give our families a focal point and reminder to meditate on our Lord's sacrifices for us, not to win a decorating award! 

Jesus Commands Satan, Carolsfeld
Meditation #1:  In the wilderness, Jesus suffered three different temptations.  We have seen that the first two were the temptation to deny God to satisfy His physical hunger and the temptation to fall into pride and take for Himself the glory that should belong to God.  Now, we see the third and final temptation, the last effort of the devil to turn Jesus away from doing the Father's Will. The devil takes Jesus up to the top of a high mountain and offers to give Him power over all the kingdoms of the world:

Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,  And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.  

This last and final temptation is the most terrible of all--it is the temptation to idolatry.  Idolatry is the sin of worshiping as a god something or someone who isn't really God Himself.  It is giving the love and honor and attention of our hearts to anything more than to God.  In ancient times, pagan people worshiped actual statues of stone, calling them gods.  Today, we don't usually have wooden or stone gods that we are tempted to worship, but we can commit idolatry by allowing material things, such as the pursuit of riches or our own pleasures, to be more important to us than God.  We also commit idolatry when we value anything more than God:

2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon." Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast",  refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.

Jesus, when facing the temptation to value power more than God, responded:

Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.~Matthew 4:1-11

It only took a word from Jesus to send Satan away. Once Jesus made it clear that He would only serve God, the temptations ended.  We, too, must strive to keep God always first in our hearts and to honor Him in everything we do.  

Get thee hence, Satan, William Hole
Meditation #2:  When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, He told her she would be like God if she ate the apple.  But we know that Eve was already like God--she was made in God's image and God's likeness.  So, the devil tried to fool her into thinking she was missing out on something that God had already given her!  He tried the same tactic with Jesus on the mountain of temptation.  What did he say?  He offered Jesus the power over all the kingdoms of the world, didn't he?  But Jesus already HAD the power over all the kingdoms of the world, the power over the whole world.  St. John tells us,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.   All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. ~John 1:1-3

Jesus is the Word of God, the very One Who made all things.  The world belongs to Him because He created it.  So, once again, Satan is trying to trick Jesus.  Maybe the tempter is hoping that Jesus will doubt God's goodness or doubt His own relationship with God, but of course that would never happen.  Jesus knows Who He is, He knows He is the Son of God.  

When we are tempted to do wrong, we must remember who we are.  We are the specially beloved of God, created in His own image and likeness. We have been redeemed by Him and we are temples of the Holy Spirit. As the readings on the Fourth Sunday of Lent recalled, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)  God knows us, loves us, and has given us everything we need to worship Him.  Let us keep our hearts faithful with His help and always put God first in our lives.

Christ Crowned with Thorns, Canuti
Meditation #3:  On our tray this week, we have added another symbol of the Passion, or suffering, of Jesus.  It is a crown of thorns.  After the soldiers scourged Jesus, they began to mock Him.  They scornfully called Him a king and placed on His head a crown of thorns.  Then they pretended to bow down and worship Him.  They gave Him a scepter of wood, too, and a cloak that was supposed to be like royal robes.  But they did not believe He was a king, they were teasing Him and making Him suffer.
Little did those soldiers know, Jesus really IS a King.  He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Do you think those soldiers were inspired by Satan?  Satan had offered Jesus the kingship of the whole world and Jesus had turned it down.  Now, Satan was mocking Him and telling Him, "See, you should have done what I said!  Then you would really be a king, but now all you have to look forward to is dying."
How blind the enemy was!  He did not know that Jesus was truly a King, come to set His people free from death and sin.  He did not know that Jesus was choosing to suffer because this was the only way to free His people.  And he did not know that in only a few short days, Jesus would rise from the dead and the power of death would be forever broken!
Our crown of thorns can be a reminder to us of Jesus's suffering.  It can also remind us of His resurrection, His power, and His true Kingship.

440 Jesus accepted Peter's profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.  He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man "who came down from heaven", and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.  Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus' messianic kingship to the People of God: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

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