Homilette for Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church

(Luke 4:38-44)

When Jesus retreats to a deserted place, we may conclude that he is going there to pray. However, the evangelist Luke has a different scenario in mind. The devil tempted Jesus in a desert place earlier in the gospel. Here the people come to tempt him again.

Jesus has successfully met the people’s needs. He spoke with an authority that left them astonished. He also cast out their maddening demons and cured their various types of diseases. Who wouldn’t want such a prophet to stay among them? The gospel does not mention how the people try to prevent Jesus from leaving them, but we can imagine them making offers difficult to refuse. They may tempt him with a life-tenure as rabbi of their synagogue. Or perhaps they propose the hand in marriage of the beautiful daughter of the town’s richest merchant! These kinds of deals would at least interest many of us.

But Jesus knows that he is no local teacher. No, he has come to tell the world about the Kingdom of God, indeed to inaugurate it with words, deeds, and ultimately with his life. He is not to be deterred by temptations of power, pleasure, or prestige. Jesus presents us here with an example and an assurance. We must know what we are about as Christians in the world and not let ourselves be led astray by temptations. There should be very little, if any at all, of following one’s fancy among us. Equally helpful, Jesus assures us that he has come to save us and will not allow anything to stop that from happening.