•Genesis: 2:7 -9; 3: 1-7 * Romans 5: 12, 17-19 *Matthew 4: 1-11 •
Weekly Scripture Readings: 1st Sunday of Lent
In our nation’s political world, this is a year, not only of utter surprise, but of growing chaos and confusion. There is so much about Donald Trump and the Republican administration that is discouraging and even frightening. My vocational call and yours is to stand in the midst of our current situation and see life and the world within the context of the Christ Mystery. I hope to do that in this homily without allowing myself to be drawn into a world of negativity.
Jesus of Nazareth lived in a time of political chaos and confusion similar to our own. He was just an ordinary guy from Nazareth in Galilee. He went to hear John the Baptist at the Jordan River and allowed himself to be baptized. In that experience something in his self-awareness began toawaken. That led him to his public ministry.
According to Matthew, from the Jordan River, “Jesus was led into the wilderness” — a place of tests and trials. I think it can help us enter this text if we consider “wilderness” as a symbol of the sort of inner, spiritual struggle that is common to all of us.
Satan does not say, “you are the Son of God.” Deceptively he says, “if you are the Son of God.” This is about deception and illusion. From deep within Jesus hears a voice saying, “I deserve to have power, prestige, and privilege so embrace the illusion that I am something or someone I am not.” “Do not empty myself for the sake of others.” “Don’t humble myself, becoming obedient to death.” “Seek my own well-being.” “Betray my vocation.” Sound familiar?
A very old proverb of the Cherokee Indian tradition says,
“There is a battle of two wolves inside us all.
One is evil. The other is good.
The wolf that wins is the one you feed.”
Like Jesus, we are unique, individual human beings. “Ego” is the concept, the self-image we create. “The good wolf” emerges when I recognize and embrace my selfless, spiritual self as part of a larger whole. “The bad wolf” (or false ego) emerges when I think I am what I have, or what I do, or that I am the center of the universe.
Jesus turns away from the “bad wolf,” the realm of power, privilege and prestige. He turns away from the quest for his own well-being, personal security and coercive power. He embraces his own identity as a human being; part of a larger whole; someone able to love.
Apparently Jesus of Nazareth knew love is the only power that frees us to be fully human. For me this is why it is so important to watch and listen to Jesus of Nazareth. He is both model and mentor of all we are capable of being – fully human, humble and loving.
In this wilderness story we see our own struggle to be true to what is in our hearts. Becoming and being fully human is our shared vocation.
In all my conscious moments I make a choice. I choose which wolf to feed. That choice
determines my own spirituality – imitating Christ—“the good wolf” or imitating the dominant culture in which the bad wolf / “the false self” is so apparently at work in our world.
Each year this wilderness text from one of the gospels, guides us into the season of Lent. That is done for a reason. We all need to be reminded of “the battle of two wolves inside us. One is evil. The other is good. The wolf that wins is the one you feed.” In this year of utter surprise and growing chaos and confusion, the “bad wolf” –(my false self) begs me to feed it. My “false self” goads me to be afraid, anxious and angry. The forty days of Lent provide space in which to intentionally feed “the good wolf” by embracing my “true self,” my spiritual self, my Christ self.