FROM A READING FOR FEB. 14, FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

'The devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread"....Jesus answered, "One does not live by bread alone..."' -- Luke 4:3-4

One of the most powerful convictions of our faith is that we follow a "God of history." Our God doesn't sit around heaven all day just pulling our strings. We relate to a God who is part of us, a God who works through the same history all of us encounter every day.

This novel belief goes back to the earliest days of our biblical faith, as we hear in Sunday's Deuteronomy (26:4-10) passage. Moses delivers a profession of faith which all Israelites are expected to make: "My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous."

Notice how the object of the next sentence changes from the third person to the first: "When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us...." Their ancestors' history quickly morphs into their history.

Biblical faith can't be understood without first understanding the history of those who profess that faith. God didn't work in peoples' lives just once upon a time. For our sacred authors, God continues to work in our lives here and now.

Word in you
Paul was convinced of that when he reminded the Christian community in Rome (Romans 10:8-13), "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart." It's a Word that's not only a part of their daily lives, it cuts through the human-made distinctions cluttering those daily lives -- in the Apostle's day and age, the distinction between Jew and Gentile.

No matter our genetic or religious background, God's Word is embedded in our history.

Perhaps that's why Luke -- along with Matthew -- lists three temptations that the historical Jesus faced before He began His preaching ministry (Luke 4:1-13).

He's not planning to become a cloistered monk or a detached philosopher; He's determined to proclaim God's Word in the real world. That means He'll have to confront the pitfalls of a real world. He'll have to avoid just taking care of peoples' physical needs, to sell out to the forces of evil, or to limit Himself to doing only the spectacular.

He commits Himself for the duration of His ministry to fight against these three real-world temptations. He's determined to relate to others on the deepest levels, to be guided by God's plan and to do what's necessary for the people around Him, even if it never makes news.

We presume when Luke ends this passage with the comment, "When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him for a time," that time could have been just a few hours, or days at most. Jesus had to confront these temptations throughout His ministry.

Torn veil
One of our Christian Scriptures' most significant concepts is rarely preached on; it's buried in the three synoptic passion narratives. Usually, when those two chapter-long narratives are proclaimed on Palm Sunday, there's not much time to homilize, much less on a single line.

The verse simply states that, at the death of Jesus, "the veil of the temple was torn in two." The huge tapestry which separated the temple's holy of holies from the holy place was regarded as dividing the sacred from the profane. Matthew, Mark and Luke are telling us that Jesus' death and resurrection destroyed that division. In their theology, now everything and everyone is sacred.