1st Sunday of Lent
The temptations of Jesus in the wilderness came straight after the account of his Baptism in the Jordan. Baptism was his initiation to begin his mission as it is for us.
He was filled with the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he wrestled with huge temptations challenging him to give up on his mission. It was a time of profound reflection and preparation before he began his public ministry. His whole life and mission were directed by the Spirit. He needed the time to pray and reflect which reminds us that anything worth doing needs that kind of space.
Retreat experiences can be times like that. They can help us discern future directions and choices we need to make or simply keep us on track. To be in touch with and influenced by the Good Spirit active within us which will always bring peace to our hearts rather than the bad one which will bring among other things anxiety and self-doubt. I have been very fortunate to have had many opportunities for retreats. As Marists, we are encouraged to take time out for an annual retreat to reassess our spiritual lives. It’s very helpful to have a spiritual guide during the process. I know not everyone can have this luxury given family and work commitments and even a retreat day can be helpful for those needing a spiritual boost and encouragement on their faith journey.
The season of Lent in a sense can be viewed as a kind of retreat or at least a time of renewed focus on our spiritual lives and baptismal mission. A time of introspection and to acknowledge our shared mission with Christ because we are led by the same Spirit. It is a time for us to re-examine the direction of our lives and what life is all about. How are we going and what changes for the better do I need to make? I find myself balking at the suggestion because I know change is never easy.
It is a privilege for us to know that we are being led by the Spirit and that same Spirit is calling us into a deeper relationship with God and a deeper sense of interconnection with other people and the world around us.
Of course, there are obstacles on the way and there are times when we need to enter the wilderness just like Christ to face those obstacles.
He was vulnerable and hungry and could have chosen to satisfy his personal needs and run away from his mission to heal and transform the lives of the poor.
He could have given into the desire for power and prestige rather than give to the world the greatest example of servant leadership.
He could have challenged God’s authority instead of submitting to God’s will.
If we look back at the wilderness times in our own lives, what was it that enabled us to come out the other side better and stronger for the experience? Jesus was on fire and single minded when he emerged from the desert and began his public ministry. Some people are still in the wilderness angry at God for what they encountered and put their lives on hold.
Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? It’s too difficult to live like this? I’ve got too much to lose. I’m not good enough. I lack courage and I am weak. Let someone else do it. I keep on committing the same sins, what’s the use? Why can’t I have some fun? What’s wrong with looking after Number 1? Who is God to tell me what to do? I don’t need God in my life. I’m doing just fine. Religion is a just a crutch for insecure people anyway. There are all kinds of variations and no doubt we have asked ourselves some of these questions too at times.
In the experience of wrestling with the temptations, Jesus shows us what God’s purpose for life is all about and there is consolation in knowing Christ understands to the very bone the challenges and temptations we face.
The very beautiful and popular song ‘On Eagles Wings’ by Michael Joncas captures the sentiment of the Gospel today. We are not alone in the wilderness and need not fear the terror of the night. God holds us in the palm of his hand. The song is recorded on ‘Truly Blessed’.