GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Is this a real test of Jesus? Is it a real temptation? I think so, in the sense that in his human nature, Jesus would have a natural desire to reveal his true identity to everyone, to have everyone believe in him as son of God, which is what many people would do if they were to see him suspended and levitating in the air above the Temple Mount. “Clearly this guy is the son of God or clearly this man has powers from God”, which is not what they’re going to say when he’s hanging on Calvary. They’re going to say, “If you’re the son of God, come down from the cross”, effectively replicating Satan’s temptation here. “If you’re the son, then prove it. Prove it.”
Okay, so what’s going on then? In each of these cases, what Jesus is doing is recapitulating the temptation of Adam in the desert and overcoming it. So whereas Adam fell to the lust of the flesh, Jesus conquers it. Whereas Adam fell to the lust of the eyes, Jesus conquers it. Where Adam fell into pride, Jesus has humility and follows the will of his Father. So he is a new Adam, undoing the effects of the fall. And if you have any doubts about that, just remember that Luke 4:1, the beginning of the temptation, comes right after Luke 3:38, which is the end of Luke’s genealogy. And in Luke’s genealogy he doesn’t do like Matthew, where Matthew begins with Abraham and David and then goes down to Joseph. Luke’s genealogy begins with Joseph and goes backwards all the way to Adam. So the last word before the temptation narrative in Luke’s gospel is, “the son of Adam, the son of God.” So he’s just told you about Adam and now Jesus goes into the desert and has these three temptations which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in the desert to show that he is now overcoming them. So that’s what’s going on in the temptation in the desert which is why we use it for Lent, because effectively, what’s taking place then, in the Season of Lent, is that we are now going to recapitulate the temptations of Jesus in ourselves. Just as he spent forty days and forty nights in the desert, so too we enter into the season of Lent, which is forty days and forty nights, and during this time we’re called to do three things: pray (more intensely), fast (more intensely), and give alms (more intensely). That’s why the reading for Ash Wednesday is from Matthew 6. When you pray, don’t tell anybody about it; when you fast (not if you fast), don’t tell everyone about it (do it in secret); and then when you give alms, do it in secret. Each of those three directives that Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount (and in the reading for Ash Wednesday) are tied to the three temptations.
So how do I overcome the lusts of the flesh? How do I battle my disorder-desire for the pleasure of the flesh? Well, by putting that desire to death, by mortifying it voluntarily through fasting. It’s really important. Jesus assumes his disciples will fast and the Church calls us not just to abstinence during Fridays of Lent, but she reads the words of Jesus calling us to fast, to abstain from food. We’re only required to do it on Good Friday, that’s a binding day of fasting, but, the Church’s tradition for time immemorial has been that Lent is a season of fasting. So whatever fasting you do (or don’t do) during the regular part of the year, during Lent that needs to be intensified; there needs to be an intentional commitment to fasting. Not because food is bad, but because it’s good; because we’re too attached to it. And so in order to build up the virtue of being detached from the lust of the flesh, we fast.
The same thing with the lust of the eyes. Do you have a problem with a disordered desire for possessions? Well then give them away. Do acts of charity and almsgiving during Lent — not just during Christmas but during Lent — to help build up the virtue of detachment from possessions. And then finally, prayer helps us to build up the virtue of humility. Are you prideful? Do you have a disordered self-love? (If you’re human, say yes). Okay, well, then pray. Intensify your prayer, because in prayer we grow in humility, especially if you try doing it for any length of time, you will learn very quickly that you have no idea what you’re doing and that as competent as you may be at everything else in life, whether it’s business or finances or whatever skills you might have, when it comes to prayer, you’re like a little kid just flailing in the shallow end of the pool. So we need to grow in our strength, the virtue of humility, recognizing that prayer is a gift and growing in prayer is a gift, and we need God to help us with that. So those are the spiritual disciplines, traditionally, for lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. So this Lent, don’t just make it about losing a few pounds or abstaining from chocolate. Jesus did not come into the world so that we can abstain from chocolate for forty days a year. He came into the world to help us, to show us that this triple concupiscence can be overcome, he conquered it, and then to give us the grace and strength to do the same, and to give us practical disciplines for doing that: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And if you live a religious life, if you live a consecrated life, you live that in a radical way through three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
So with that in mind, go back to the passage here. And in this case, let’s look at what Paul is saying in light of that. So in verse 8, it begins:
But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach)...
So notice there, Paul can describe his entire Gospel as being “the word of faith.” So for him, the word faith in a sense summarizes the Good News that he’s sharing with the Romans. Well, what does that mean? He explains:
… because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart…
And here that Greek word for “believe” is pisteuó.
It’s the verbal form of pistis
, which is the noun. So if you believe in your heart or you have faith in your heart, for example:
… that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
So pause there. Notice here… Paul is clearly using the verb “to believe” and the noun “faith” to talk about an assent to the truth that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead and that He is Lord. But notice that Paul makes sure it isn’t just an intellectual consent; it’s also verbal expression. So I need to believe in my heart and confess with my lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and He’s been raised from the dead. If I do both those things, then I will be saved.
So what Paul is trying to do here is express kind of a Jewish — or very biblical, actually — anthropology where you don’t just focus on the interior or just on the exterior but on both. And that’s really what he’s using. The image of the heart is the image of an interior assent, and then the image of the lips is a symbol of the exterior consent, by confessing verbally our assent to the truth that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead.
Now, it’s funny here… you’ll notice we might talk about believing in our hearts, because we’re reflecting the biblical languages. But usually, we think of faith as something that takes place in the mind. But one of the interesting things is that if you look at the Bible, it will frequently use the image of the heart, not only to describe the seat of the human emotions, but also the intellect. So the heart is a very powerful metaphor for, in a sense, the deepest part of the mystery of a person, where a person decides for or against God — that’s the heart. It’s the innermost secret of the person. And sometimes it’s used more to reflect our will, like the choices we make. Other times it is used, though, as a symbol for our intellect. So it’s just a biblical way of describing that interior complete assent to the truth that Jesus is Lord and that He’s been raised from the dead. And then the lips, of course, obviously, are more physical and express that outward public manifestation of inward faith.
So here, Paul is saying if you do both these things — believe in your heart, confess with your lips — you will be saved. And then he explains why in the next verse:
For man believes with his heart…
And again, that’s the verb pisteuó
— he “faiths with his heart”.
…and so is justified…
Or made righteous or declared righteous.
… and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.
So this is going to be interesting too. You’ll notice throughout the history of early Christianity, the importance of not just believing but confessing, is going to become very crucial. Now when we use the word confession in modern day Catholic circles, we tend to think of it primarily as confessing the bad things that I’ve done, like the Sacrament of Confession — which is technically, actually, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We call it the Sacrament of Confession because that’s the part of it we’re most scared of, and so we have to focus on the confession part. But it’s actually the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And that’s true, because we’re using our lips to verbally confess our sin in order to be reconciled. But remember, the word “confess” was also used in the early Church to talk about a public profession of faith.
So there are certain saints — like Maximus the Confessor, for example — who are called the confessors, precisely because they were martyred for the sake of the confession of faith. In other words, they were charged to renounce their faith, and they refused to renounce their faith because they confessed that Jesus is Lord. And they were either put to death for it and became martyrs in that way, or like Maximus, had his tongue cut out. And so he’s called the confessor, because he refused to renounce the faith verbally in a public way.
So here, Paul is, again, talking about making the confession of faith and a belief in the heart in order to be justified and to be saved.
Now… why are both those things necessary? Remember, Paul is a Jew. He’s a Jewish believer in Christ, and so he’s going to cite the Jewish Scriptures as a foundation for his emphasis on the necessity of both believing (faith) but also confessing. So the Scripture says here in verse 11 — he quotes the Scripture and he’s quoting from Isaiah:
The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him.
And then he quotes a second Scripture:
For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So here he’s quoting Joel 2 and Isaiah 28. The first quote is from Isaiah 28:16. The second quote is from Joel 2:32. And what he’s saying is, if you look at the Jewish Scriptures and look at the Old Testament, the prophets reveal that anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord — that’s with the lips — will be heard, and whoever believes with the heart will be saved. And those are the foundations for Paul’s emphasis on both faith and the confession of faith with the lips.
And what Paul is saying here — this is important. Notice he says because there’s no distinction between Jew and Greek. The same Lord is Lord of all.
Now why does he say that? Well, because the context of the letter to the Romans that he’s writing about, is wrestling with this question of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in Christ. And you’ll probably recall from other videos that Paul was called by God to go not exclusively to the Gentile people but predominantly or primarily. So he’s sent out to the nations. He’s the apostle to the Gentiles. And whenever he would get to a city in the book of Acts, he would always go to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. But he clearly has a special vocation to go to the nations.
And so as he’s building churches throughout the Mediterranean that consist predominantly of Gentiles — but not exclusively of Gentiles — there will be Jewish converts to the Gospel. One of the things that happens is, in these congregations where you have lots of Gentiles and in some cases fewer Jews — it’s not always the case. It’s a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles. The question of priority, status, relationship within the Body of Christ between these Jews and Gentiles is going to be a problem. Well, it’s going to a the source of some conflict, a source of tension, but also just raising questions. What’s the relationship between the Old and New Testament? What’s the relationship between Jew and Gentile? Which promises of the Old Testament continue to be binding on Jews, or all they all binding on Gentiles? Like for example, circumcision — you know the practice of circumcision in the book of Genesis.
So all that’s being worked out. And what Paul is trying to emphasize here — and this is important for us today — is it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are. It doesn’t matter what race you come from, what people you come from, what continent you hail from. Whether you’re a Jew (of the people of Israel) or you’re a Gentile (meaning you belong to every other nation in the world), Christ is the Lord of all. He’s the same Lord. So everyone, Jew or Gentile — which is a very first century Jewish way of saying “all of humanity” — is called to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to believe that He has been raised from the dead and that He is the Son of God. In other words, in order for anyone to be saved, they have to come to faith in Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord. So Paul is emphasizing not just the necessity of faith, but the universality of it. This faith is for all people.
And that's something he’s going to really have to stress in a first century Roman context, because you had all these different deities — these gods and goddesses. You had lots of local deities. You had certain kings setting themself up as divine kings, the divine Caesars. There’s a whole cornucopia of different cults from the east and the west, and local deities, and local shrines. There’s so much variety on display when it comes to the kinds of religious worship, as well as different beliefs about the afterlife and different gods and goddesses in that first century context. And so what Paul is saying is, “Look, whether you’re Jew or Gentile, Christ Jesus is the Lord of all humanity. He’s the Lord of all people. And belief in Him is necessary for salvation… and not just belief, but confession” — in other words, outward affirmation, outward pro
fession of His Lordship in order to be saved.
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