The Gospel Reading today is common to Years A, B and C. We hear the familiar story of the Temptations of Jesus in the Desert. Let’s situate this story in the life and ministry of Jesus. Having been baptised in the Jordan River, and joined by public sinners in a very public place, Jesus is led into the Desert to be tested! Notice it was ‘the Spirit’ who impelled Jesus to go into the Desert. In doing so, Jesus was identifying with the people of Israel (His people), as they too had been in the Desert for a long time after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt; they too were tested, and within that testing time they were invited into the Marriage Covenant by the Lord God on Mt Sinai. That great event of Salvation had left an indelible mark upon the corporate mind of God’s people. In Jesus, we now see him being tested, as well as being empowered by the Spirit, which enabled him to refute the Devil’s Temptations in favour of a life orientation of unconditional loving service. These Temptations were not just applicable to Jesus, they are the Temptations that have always harassed humanity…Here they are: – The pursuit of Power, The pursuit of Glory, and the pursuit of Avoiding Responsibility. These Temptations were knocked back by Jesus, but they came back to haunt Him many times during His life time, in various shapes and sizes. The same happens to us, doesn’t it? Jesus was nurtured by that special filial relationship with his Father during the time of testing, and at the end of this ordeal, the Lord God’s messengers ministered to Him. Let’s not forget that Jesus was like us in all things, but sin!
Now, let’s focus on the Wilderness aspect. Apart from the Biblical implications of ‘the wilderness’ which I will talk about further on; wilderness experiences for us are essential for wholesome living. We are very careful that our Motor Cars are serviced on time, so that we can get the best out of the vehicle. The Service Manual tells us so!!!!! Sometimes, it is a pain in the neck to fit the time in to have the car Serviced, but it is very important for us TO MAKE TIME to have the job done. For ourselves, we all live very busy lives, and the demands placed on us by family, work and friends can be very taxing. The demand of the Mobile phone as we call them in Australia and Britain, or Cell phone in many other countries seem to be self-absorbing and time consuming. Last week I was having a light lunch at the Coffee Club…a chain of Café’s that make delicious coffee and serve meals in Sydney.
There was a family of four sitting next to me, and Mum and Dad, and the two kids were absorbed in their phones……..As soon as they sat at the table, out came the phones…….No talking among themselves…..just texting! The poor waitress came over twice to see if they were ready to order, and they had not opened the Menu. The third time she asked them, ’are you ready to order?’ The Dad said, without taking his eyes off his phone…’oh we are not ready yet’! The teenage son then said, ‘I have text my order to you Dad!’ Speaking and listening to each other seems to be a luxury for many people these days! If we can let ourselves be so absorbed in social media, like Facebook and Twitter, do we know the absolute values of ‘silence’……..Listening and speaking in loving silence! If we can’t be present to ourselves, we are not within a bull’s roar of being present to Jesus! It says so in our Biblical Service Manual….The Scriptures!!!!!
We are not machines or robots; but like our cars, we need maintenance checks and time, to check out where we are going in life, what is dominating us in life, where do we invest our love and energy, and what are we missing out on? The first week of Lent, sets the scene! The invitation is there….’Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel….’
We don’t need to go off into the country to be in the wilderness….we can have our wilderness experience while driving the car to work! Driving to pick up the kids from school! Or quiet time anywhere……time to reflect on our life directions. We can only do that if we are TOTALLY present to ourselves….Turn the phones off….shut down the computer! Turn the TV off! Mum and Dads this is not only good for us adults, but you a doing your kids a big favour in their formation in enabling them to see the value of a REVIEW OF LIFE!! OK, let’s have a look at the Temptations of Jesus…..
TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS IN THE WILDERNESS Luke 4:1-14
- “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”
Jesus replied: “Man does not live on bread alone.”
Temptation: FULFILLMENT OF PLEASURE AS A LIFE DIRECTION.
- “I will give you all this power and the glory of these
Kingdoms….worship me, and it shall be yours.”
Jesus replied: “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.
Temptation: POWER AS A LIFE DIRECTION. .
- “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down for here, for Scripture says, He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you, and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case your hurt your foot against a stone.”
Jesus replied:” You must not put the Lord your God to the test”.
Temptation: AVOIDING RESPONSIBILITY AS A LIFE DIRECTION.
JESUS REJECTED ALL THESE IN FAVOUR OF A LIFE DIRECTED TO AND FULL OF
CONDITIONAL SERVICE AND LOVE.
So, in a nutshell, these three Temptations could well be the headings for a mental – spiritual- health-check. Briefly, let’s check out the first Temptation. Do we only do things or be the person who responds only when it is pleasurable? Are we able to see beyond, what is in it for me? Do we have the inner strength to do things that cause a little sacrifice of our time and energy for the betterment of someone else?
Are we people who are power hungry and want to look powerful people? Do we inflict the abuse of power on other people in making them stew before we give them an answer or permission? I know that this happens in business, but it also happens in Church governance too!
Do we like to appear to have the upper hand in most things so that can cover our weaknesses? Is our relationships with others, ‘servant based’ like Jesus, or like an unjust Emperor?
Finally, the third Temptation……avoiding responsibility. Are we people who want to save our own skins so much that we prefer other people to put their hand up for things to do? Do we shy away from what is rightly called of us as adults in life? Can we let the ‘little ones’ of this world share some suggestions with us on how to be more wholesome? Can we waste time profitably with others????? Can we sincerely take the risk of asking them, Are the OK? Or do we back off because we don’t really want to be involved?
Jesus truly identifies himself with all humanity, and in every age. Jesus did not have to go very far from the Jordan to be in the Desert…just a few miles walk, and in fact he was in sight of Mt. Nebo on the opposite side of the Jordan valley…the very place where Moses and the Hebrews viewed the Promised Land, after their long trek through the Desert. He was also in sight of Jericho, the salad bowl of the Jordan Valley….food, fruit and water a plenty.
The Desert experience was a time of assessment. It is a fact of life that good will is always be tested by evil. If an undertaking, which is supposed to be good, doesn’t come under attack of some kind from somewhere, then, its value should be reassessed. There is not a saint in Heaven, or a truly great person on earth who has not, or does not attract some vicious slander, or find their paths strewn with obstacles. Jesus joins that group in today’s Gospel and still suffers that within His Body the Church today.
As we enter into the spirit of Lent, let us check out the direction and quality of our lives. How do we deal with temptation? Do we sustain our inner selves by responding to God’s life-giving Word through Sacred Scripture? Do we take ‘time-out’ (a mini Desert experience) to re-evaluate the quality of our lives, or are we in fact being led by alternatives to the Gospel message? Do we make room for God’s Spirit, to bring to the surface in ourselves, the holiness that lies deep within? May the Lenten reminder of our fragility stay close to us, if we feel tempted to create an everlasting city within ourselves. “Remember, we are but dust, and unto dust we shall return; turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel” Amen.
Fr Kevin and his companion, Shauna