Saturday, 16 February 2013


GospelLuke 4:1-13 

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’
  Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:
You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’
Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from 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 you hurt your foot against a stone.’
But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

The Gospel gives us a hint as to what to expect during Lent. The forty days that prepare Jesus for his ministry are offered to us every year to test our willingness to follow.

The understandable response to a conversion moment - even one as unique as Jesus' baptism - is for action; to go; to tell; to share; to change. Acting on this first desire - this spiritual adrenalin - can cause chaos and often brings disappointment and a withdrawal into despair with the realisation that 'you' may have changed, however the world has not and so either rejects or resents what you feel compelled to offer.

The Spirit cannot take the chance that Jesus will be so quickly overcome (remember the almost immediate rejection from his home community). Jesus will never be justified by the world around him. The acknowledgement he has been given is to be his stronghold; he must understand what his Father's inheritance means otherwise he may find himself as downheartened as the Prodigal Son.

In Luke, Jesus is never left alone and, along with the Spirit, he has the devil as company for the whole forty days not simply the great temptations.

This is more human - something we are much more accustomed to - all the little temptations that accompany us through our life. Even our commitment on Ash Wednesday could well be a struggle by this weekend.

And why? Because we have a gift in justifying our actions.  The same argument for restraint serves to excuse lack of restraint - 'sell all you have and give to the poor' against 'there will be poor always'. In the battle of wills, Jesus shows us that just knowing what the right thing is isn't enough.   Jesus teaches that what is written cannot be used to pervert the Father's will. And how often do we try to do that?

The Spirit has brought him to near starvation and isolation; in forty days, surely to near death. But he is not dead - he has learned to 'do without'. What little Jesus ever had in his life has gone and only God remains; except that he is encouraged by the devil, that God is not enough.  

To answer his own hunger, Jesus is offered the treasures of the world and he see through them. Earthly food will never fully satisfy; the lure of power will always bring the fear of loss; testing God's protection will bring the fear of rejection. Either God is utterly enough or nothing is. The devil offers nothing.

The Spirit who leads Jesus into the wilderness offers us the same Lenten space; a place of uncertainty; a place to try out our survival techniques; to trust in a God who will provide all we ever need. 

In the silence of contemplative prayer and the discipline of meditation we share Jesus' desert experience. In the offering of penance and sacrifice we honour the love and generosity of our Father. 

In how this informs our life and relationships with others; in how we become hungry only for the Spirit and the solace of God's immeasureable care.


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