Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2018
It’s hard to know just exactly how much of what I am trying to pass on to my 9th grade theology students about our faith is sticking with them. Putting facts down on paper isn’t the real test of what they have learned about Christ and our Church. How they live their lives is the “final exam.” And that is a test that will take a lifetime to complete. I do know this much with certainty: No one will get a 100%. Even if I should happen to have a future saint in my classroom, it is highly unlikely that they will escape their desert experiences of life, or their own personal agonies in the garden, without succumbing to temptation.
The other day, one of my kids (who, by the way, rarely speaks) shared a profound insight while we were reflecting on The Passion according to Mark. The class was focused on the religious leaders taunting Jesus, saying: “If You truly are the Messiah, come down from there…save Yourself.” My usually silent friend pointed out that this was a temptation much like Satan used in the desert when the evil one dared Jesus to jump from the parapet of the Temple. Elaborating, the student suggested that Jesus resisted the very human instinct of self-survival, so that He could save us.
This was a good teaching day for me, because at least one 9th grader understood that right up to the end, He must have been tempted. Consider what we are told in the Second Reading: In the days when Jesus was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death.
By my continually repeating our belief that Jesus was fully human, like us in all things but sin, it is my hope to instill hope in my students. I myself find enormous hope in knowing that by sharing in our human nature, The Lord shared as well all the things each of us deals with each and every day, including temptations and the fear of suffering and death. However, He was able to resist every temptation…even the very human temptation to avoid pain and suffering because, unlike the rest of humankind, He was not weakened by sin.
Still, He knows our struggles from first-hand experience and will be understanding and merciful when we submit our lives for judgment…our final exam.
If this seems presumptuous…too bold a statement… then refer back once again to our Second Reading to another statement which seems presumptuous and bold when we recall that Jesus was not only fully human but also fully Divine. He learned…from what He suffered!
He learned what it means to be human. And from Him, we have learned what it means to be perfectly human. The more we strive to be like Jesus our Brother, the more like The Christ our God we become. How much of what The Lord has passed onto us has stuck with you? It’s not about what you know…or what you are able to write down on paper…it’s about how you live that will help you pass the final test.
These final days of Lent 2018 are “study days.” Let’s put them to good use.