Sunday, March 10, 2019
+ 1stLent C +
A Lent of soberinginsight would do us all good. I/we resist knowing and facing the consequences—for myself and others—of my thoughts, words, and deeds, of what I have done and failed to do.
How we are tempted to feel entitled to all we have—ignoring how inter-related our lives are, how much we owe to those who have gone before us, and how much we must hand on to those who follow us.
Luke shows us that Jesus is our companion in being tempted and our redeemer in overcoming it. Hebrew though was that God had hidden himself in transcendence until the coming of the Messiah.
Until then, the world would be under the control of Satan and his demons, of all that rebels against God and works for the destruction of human dignity and human solidarity.
They expected a huge cosmic battle when the Messiah came. In Luke the battle begins the moment Jesus is baptized and consecrates himself to live his Father’s life as a human being in this world, whatever it takes, wherever it leads.
At once, the Spirit leads Jesus and into the wilderness, to face temptation: “If you are the Son of God, you shouldn’t have to be a creature—hot, hungry, powerless, and unheeded.”
These temptations never leave him: “If you are the Messiah, come down from that cross.” Jesus does not renounce his humanity. He saves us throughhis humanity:
Though I am hungry, I live on, I long for, I trust in the bread of God.
Bow down to me and dominate the world? The only sovereignty that matters to Jesus is God’s, shared only with those who serve. He will wait for the Father to put all things under his feet, though it means his first throne will be the cross.
Throwing himself down from the temple, being borne up by angels, would be the perfect PR stunt, but Jesus’ whole life will be a leap into God’s hands: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
When weare tempted, when we are hungry for security or affection, we look out for ourselves at others’ expense. We intimidate. We manipulate. We bribe. We sell ourselves if we have to.
Our false gods are whatever can smear us with status and power. Even religious practice is twisted into smug self-justification.
All of this leaves us in the desert with Jesus, who wants nothing but to share complete your frail, contingent existence, even our death. In the desert we learn the lessons of paradise. Henri Nouwen:
It is in solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received.
We are tempted and fail; he confronts the tempter in the name of us all and after much suffering prevails.
In these weeks, may we turn away from alienation to God and to one another.
For the Spirit is leading us through the wilderness and—because Christ is with us—into the promised land.