Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reflection on the First Sunday of Lent

This weekend, our Gospel reading was the Temptation of Jesus Christ according to Luke. Following His baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the desert, a biblical place of discovery and challenge, and fasts for forty days. In spending these days in the desert, Jesus identifies Himself with the people of Israel, who themselves wandered forty years in the desert as they received God’s Law (as found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) and grew in their relationship to God.

After His stay, Luke records Jesus is hungry. The devil, the one who literally ‘throws' temptation 'in the way of' Jesus, taunts Jesus – turn this stone into bread. The temptation, though external to His person, might be understood to take care of his own needs, to reject the hunger pains and provide for himself. Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy, responds that man does not live by bread alone.

Satan is not so easily discouraged, and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world. He calims that he has been given the power over all the kingdoms of the world. (Note, he has no lasting power, but that does not prevent him for claiming it!) All Jesus has to do, the devil states, is to bow in worship to him. He, again quoting Deuteronomy, reminds the devil that God alone is worthy of worship. Unlimited power was not enough to tempt Jesus.

The third temptation is the most interesting. Satan, knowing that he is failing, takes Jesus to the parapet of the Temple in Jerusalem. (Note that Luke’s Gospel begins with Zachariah in the Temple, and ends with the Apostles in prayer in the Temple, so this is a apt location.) This time, Satan quotes Scripture to Jesus (Psalm 91 to be exact) that God will protect His servant. (Note that even Satan can know Scripture, though he twists it into his own designs.) Satan tempts Jesus to make a name for himself and cast himself down in front of everyone. One can only imagine the prestige that he would have gained from taking a such a fall and survive! Jesus dismisses the tempter with yet another quote from Deuteronomy – not to test God.

Yes, Jesus rejects all grasping for his personal pleasure, power, and prestige. But he is the Son of God; he has all three. Philippians 2 states that Jesus did not grasp equality with God, but ‘emptied’ himself. He let it go – and in the end, all of Creation will proclaim Him Lord.

So often, we might have internal temptations that Jesus experienced externally. Often, we might even fall and claim things for ourselves. Perhaps the greatest reason that many do not respond to God’s call is the quest for pleasure, power, or prestige. While it is good to desire good things, in the end everything good only comes from God, not from our own grasping. Through our own desert experience, through our own study of scripture, we can grow in grace and receive strength to resist the temptations. Perhaps if relinquish our sinful desires, God will provide much more than we can even imagine. We should not be afraid to let go, and God, who is good, will provide lasting happiness.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Welcome to my first blog. Through this new medium for us in the Diocese of New Ulm Vocations Office, I hope that we can us this space to keep you informed, provide prayer resources, and help discern a vocation to the priesthood. I hope that I could use this to also post weekly reflections on the Sunday's Gospel/feast as they relate to vocations.

About me: I am Fr. Todd Petersen, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota. I was ordained in 1999, and was named Director of Vocations in 2002. I am also a pastor, currently serving three small parishes in eastern Sibley County.

About our Diocese: We are a diocese that covers 15 counties in south/central Minnesota. We have just short of 70,000 Catholics with a total population of about 280,000 people. Some of our major cities are Willmar, Marshall, New Ulm, and Hutchinson. The Diocese of New Ulm was established in 1958. Bishop Alphonse Schladweiler was our first Bishop (1958-1978), followed by Bishop Raymond Lucker (1978-2000). Our current bishop is the Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, originally from the Archdiocese of Detriot. He was installed as our 3rd bishop in August of 2001. We have 80 parishes and 2 Oratories (former parishes that no longer have Sunday Mass but are still active in provide prayer and service opportunities), served by 45 priests. We also have 11 Pastoral Administrators (Lay men or women, Deacons or Religious) who serve parishes through administration and some pastoral assistence (of course, in accord with Canon Law, so a priest is also assigned to provide the Sacraments).

We currently have six Seminarians. Deacon Paul Timmerman, soon to be ordained a priest, is currently at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio. Matt Wiering, Theo. I, is at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Zach Peterson, Theo. I, is studying at St. Meinrad's in Indiana. Aaron Johanneck, Pre-Theo. II, is currently finishing his program at the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, MN, and is applying to major seminary. Jacob Niemand, College IV/Senior, will graduate from the University of St. Thomas and St. John Vianney College Seminary also in St. Paul, MN; he is also applying to major seminaries. Anthony Mielke, College I/Freshman, is at the University of St. Thomas and St. John Vianney College Seminary also in St. Paul, MN.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate in emailing me.