What Is Our Real Motive for Following Christ on Mission?

Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12,17-19; Mt 4:1-11

The way that Jesus Christ responded to His temptations in the desert reveals this about Him: He was not only on mission from the Father, but He was also clear and faithful to His motive for being on this mission. He was on mission out of love for the Father and love for souls.

His public mission had begun at the moment of His baptism. It was also at that moment that the Father declared about Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus would henceforth do and endure all things out of love for the Father, to please the Father alone and to find all His fulfillment in the Father alone as He Himself attested, “He who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him” (Jn 8:29).

He overcame all His temptations overwhelmingly because of His clarity and fidelity to this His motive. He refused the temptation to change stones to bread because the motive of His mission was not to get His material needs fulfilled on this earth. He was clear that He was not empowered by the Father for His own convenience. On the contrary, He came to die and become for us the very bread of life that we receive in the Eucharist.

He refused the temptation to jump down from the parapet of the temple because the motive of His mission was not to prove Himself to anyone but to win children for His heavenly Father. He rejected the temptation to gain the whole world by simply worshiping the devil because His motive was not to choose an easy way out but to make a loving self-sacrifice to the Father on the cross for the salvation of souls. (See Mt 4:1-11)

Because of Jesus’ fidelity to both His mission and his motive for being on mission, we too can share in His own motive of love in all that we do as we follow Him on mission. Adam did not seem to have cultivated the right motive for obeying God and thus it is was so easy for him to yield to the tempter and thus transmit nothing but sin and death, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.”

On the other hand, the fidelity of Jesus to His mission and motive has won for us “abundance of grace and the gift of justification.” In the face of Adam’s sin that has been propagated and spread down to this day, we have access to the more powerful grace of salvation through the obedience of Jesus (See Rom 5:12,17-19).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we follow Christ in His mission from the very moment of our own baptism, we too will face many temptations. Moreso those of us who have been consecrated as priests and religious and committed ourselves exclusively to the mission of spreading the kingdom of God will face many more, stronger, and more persistent temptations.

These temptations do not mean that we are being abandoned by God or that we made the wrong decision in our decision to be on mission for Christ. These temptations are moments wherein Christ invites us to clarify, purify, and deepen our motive for following Him on mission in the first place. In the midst of our many motives, we must seek to make love for God the primary and overarching motive.

Only the grace of God and a true and purer motive can sustain us in times of temptations. Our challenge today in the face of the deluge of temptations, sin, and scandals inside and outside the Church is to cultivate a purer motive, a motive of love of God, in all that we do in our mission with Him. We can do so in the following ways:

Firstly, we can start by following Christ out of gratitude for all that He has done for us. Remember how we, the many, are made righteous only through His own righteousness. We have no chance of loving obedience to God apart from the “obedience of Christ unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

Adam and Eve received everything that they had from God. God lovingly formed them from the clay of the earth, breathed life into them, planted a garden for them, and placed them there with a clear mission. In their ingratitude to God, they abandoned their mission by listening to the devil who had given them nothing but would eventually take everything good from them.

Secondly, we are careful not to abuse any of God’s gifts to us. We abuse God’s gifts when we use them for our selfish purpose and not for the purpose for which God has given them to us. Eve began to ignore God’s purpose when she began to look at the tree and see it as “good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.”

Are we not living in times too today when God’s gifts are being abused? Many people are deceived into thinking that the human body is given to us to be chemically and surgically altered in a futile attempt to change their genders. Some think that the human body is only meant for pleasure and comfort. Many even in the Church think that we can impose our own purpose on the marital act and family without grave consequences.

Thirdly, we must cultivate our faith in God’s words to us and the penalties He stipulates. God had clearly warned our first parents not to touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “For the day that you eat of it you shall die.” The devil deceived them into doubting God’s words, “You certainly will not die.”(Gen 2:17, 3:4) The tempter calls God a liar!

We are seeing this same scenario play out today even in the Church when the members of the hierarchy teach that we should dispense with certain teachings on sexual morality because they are too intolerant or judgmental. They pretend to be more inclusive than God Himself. They unknowingly play the role of the tempter in making God’s people doubt the meaning and value of God’s words. We too will repeatedly fall into sin when tempted because we are not grounded in God’s words that offers us grace to resist out of love for God, hope for eternal life, and also imposes penalties for our disobedience.

Fourthly, we must seek to cultivate our trust in God to provide for us all our needs. God wants to provide all things for us, no matter how important or trivial they are. Adam and Eve who experienced God providing them with existence and sustenance failed to trust Him to provide for them the fruits they wanted to eat! They chose to provide for themselves and fell into sin.

Jesus faced and overcame the temptations to provide for Himself because He knew that His Father will surely provide for Him and not disappoint Him, “Behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

Lastly, we must be thoroughly grounded and rooted in God’s love and intention towards us. We are hopeless in the face of temptations when we doubt God’s love or His intention towards us. The devil deceived our first parents by insinuating that God was somehow holding back from them something that was good and beneficial to them, that God did not have their best interest at heart, “God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and evil.” The final temptation is doubting or questioning God’s intention towards us.

Let us contemplate a crucifix closely and see if we can honestly say to Jesus, “I see you dying on the cross for me. But I still doubt your love for me or the intention in your heart towards me.”

Our victorious Lord shares with us His life and mission in every Eucharist we celebrate. He also shares with us His own motive of love for the Father in all that we too do and endure. He invites us to begin again this Lenten season and renew our commitment to His mission for the salvation of souls. If by His grace we also clarify, deepen, and purify our motive of love for Him and for souls redeemed by His own blood, there is no temptation that we cannot ultimately overcome by this same grace.

Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!

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Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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