I landed a gig as sous-chef for the first of our parish Fish Frys the other day.
“Sous-chef”: I guess that’s what you’d call it. Our master bean-maker wisely did not trust this rookie with wielding the industrial can opener. But he did permit me to drain the humongous cans of green beans, once opened.
So drain I did. And drain. And drain. And drain. Six of the 18 cans got drained in all. Then it was on to implementing the (apparently) time-honored recipe for jazzing up the beans in the serving pans: A few dollops of liquid-butter-substitute…a few shakes of freeze-dried onion flakes…all topped off by a generous scattering of almond slivers.
My job at this point was simply to observe the bean augmentation process…and then stir. For the most part, I avoided disaster along the way – although in the early going, a few rebellious beans did get flung from the food warmer…splattering a trail of liquid-butter-substitute in their wake.
In the grand scheme of things, my sous-chef effort made but a humble contribution to the greater good – to the 700+ meals our parish served that evening. But I was glad to have the job…happy, especially, to perform it this week as our Lenten journey begins.
On Sunday, we hear proclaimed a couple of the most memorable stories in all of scripture. Both the first reading and the Gospel reveal a basic truth about our human state – our “state of bean,” so to speak. It’s in our nature to think we know more than we actually do. We tend to want control. Like Eve, we cannot resist taking a bite of the apple:
The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Jesus, in enduring his temptations in the desert, shows us a different way: Not by consuming forbidden fruit do we live best, but rather by listening humbly – and by waiting for God to weigh in.
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, / but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
And isn’t it interesting to note that God waits for us, too. God respects our freedom to choose a different path, our seemingly innate yearning to seize control even if – God knows – it’s not likely to end well.
What a blessing it is, then, to have this Lenten season stretching out before us: Forty days – a generous helping of time and space to consider our “state of bean”…and to identify which voice, which Word, will do the most to satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.