|Deuteronomy 26: 4-10 | Romans 10-13 | Luke 4: 1-13 | 1 Lent C ‘13 |
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 02.17.2013
Consider the gospel of today. The Spirit of God directed Jesus “into the wilderness.” His story is our story. That Gracious Mystery we name God draws all of us into a future of possibility. All of us have undergone or will undergo a deep inner self-examination and transformation before we know who we are and the meaning of life for us personally.
Jesus was alone for forty days during which time “he ate nothing.” No one was with him in the wilderness recording his experience. Perhaps he later shared this experience in conversation with his disciples.
An extended period of solitude and fasting will produce a change in one’s consciousness and perception. Native American peoples call such an experience “a vision quest.” This lengthy period of fasting and solitude probably left Jesus feeling somewhat insecure. Insecurity unleashes the energy of our primal instincts and we focus on self and personal needs.
Jesus was “tempted by the devil.” Satan (or “The devil”) is not the literal person of popular Christian fantasy. It is the name Scripture gives to the demonic impulses that originate in our primal instincts. Those instincts are the source of enormous energy. That energy shapes and directs us individually, and our social groupings.
When disciplined or sublimated that demonic energy is creative. It nourishes and nurtures life and our social well-being. We see that energy in people like Archbishop Hunthausen or Mother Theresa. We see it in good marriages and stable families.
When undisciplined or lacking direction, that same demonic energy is expressed in the violence we do to self or others. We see it in the senseless killings that have occurred in schools, theaters or shopping malls. We see it in wars fought between nations or tribes.
Being “tempted by the devil,” is a metaphorical image used to describe the internal struggle of Jesus with those primal instincts. It is our struggle as well. Before Jesus began calling people to “metanoia” — “a change of mind,” “a wholistic way of seeing,” or “enlightenment,” he himself had to experience “metanoia.”
His forty days in the wilderness was a freeing experience. At the end he had three closely related visions. He was freed of his desire for personal satisfaction. He was freed of his need to control. He was freed of his “ego,” the “false self” seeking fame, reputation or prestige. His motives for doing things were purified. He was embraced, grasped and held by God who is love. As a result he was able to see what is real and his own identity and spiritual path became clear to him.
Having confronted the demonic within himself, he sublimated the enormous energy of his primal instincts and redirected that energy into unconditional love. In doing so he became the first among us to become fully human. He is thus both model and mentor for us. We human beings all are hard-wired the same way. We need to be loved unconditionally. We need to love unconditionally. Everything else in life is secondary.
I hope my comments on this gospel help you connect your own life with that of Jesus. Lent calls us into the wilderness for the same reason Jesus entered the wilderness. This is a time to redirect and sublimate the demonic power within us. How you confront and sublimate that energy is not important. That you do so is important for your own personal growth. Less “ego,” less “false self,” less need to control will free you to see what is real. As you realize you are embraced, grasped and held by God – by unconditional love, you will discover you are freer than you think to love without condition. You also will discover that others find it easier to love you.