After the baptism, where the spirit of Christ first descended into Jesus, He was immediately driven out into the desert. There He was tempted. We hear this week in our gospel that He then said ‘no’ three times to the adversary. It is striking to notice that the very first ‘word’ that the Christ spoke on Earth was three times ‘no’.
In this way, we can see that ’No’ is a very special word. And we follow Christ by learning to speak the sacred word ‘no’ in the right way, at the right time, to the right being.
And yet, just like Christ we can only speak the sacred ‘no’ if we learn at the same time to say ‘yes’- if we learn to say ‘yes’ to the will of God. In overcoming the tempter on Earth, Christ had also to say ‘yes’ to the will of God three times.
Just the other night, two of my dear friends arrived in New York City flying in from overseas. They were picked up by someone in the Spring Valley congregation. Half way home, the radiator burst and fluid was leaking into the driver’s seat. They pulled over to a parking lot in inner city Harlem. It was dark and getting late. Looking under the hood, they didn’t know what to do. And then, a man came walking toward them seemingly out of the darkness. He was tall, and shaking a bit; he had no teeth. He asked them if he could help. At that moment my friend knew he had to trust, something told him he needed to say yes- say yes to trusting this toothless man. But to do this, my friend had to say no to the temptation of fear and prejudice.
At the same time as this was happening, bizarrely, they were surrounded by a gang of bikers, circling them again and again, popping wheelies, and revving their engines. After about twenty minutes of this otherworldly scene, the jittery toothless man lifted his head from under the hood with a beaming smile, no longer shaking, having fixed the radiator hose. My friend gave him 30 dollars, the bikers disappeared and they were on their way again.
To become truly human, it is our sacred destiny to learn to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.