•Deut 26: 4-10; Romans 10: 8-13; Luke 4: 1-13•
Weekly Scripture Readings:First Sunday in Lent
To print a PDF version of the homily, click here.
Every year the season of Lent invites us to imitate the desert experience of Jesus. Lent invites us to begin the journey anew and figure out who we are as baptized people.
The earliest Christians relied on the Hebrew bible to help them understand Jesus of Nazareth and the “Christ Mystery.” We see Luke doing exactly that in the manner he composes his narrative about the experience of Jesus in the desert. The Hebrew bible tells us that Moses and the people of Israel escaped from slavery. They then wandered in the desert for forty years, figuring out who they were as a people. However the desert is foreign to most of us. We think of vast stretches of thirsty sand, and hard rock, devoid of life. In reality the desertdoes have life – insects, rodents, birds, and occasionally plants. That is what we are invited to find in the desert of Lent – life!
“Filled with the Holy Spirit. . . Jesus went into the desert. . . For forty days he was tempted.” “Forty days.” The number is a red flag alerting us the story is fictional, but “full to the brim with reality.” Our task is to contemplate and probe the text until it speaks to our lived reality.
At the Jordan River Jesus experienced a deep spiritual shift. He experienced and awakened to his deepest truth — the divine presence in him, and that to be fully human is to love without condition.
He then “went into the desert.” There “he was tempted by Satan, just as all of us are
tempted. His struggle is not simply about moral or ethical choices, nor about doing the right thing. His struggle is to remain aligned with his deepest truth experienced at the Jordan.
“Satan” is not out there in the world. “Satan” is the personification of our false ego, the inner voice of narcissism saying, “You are more important than others;” “don’t live in harmony with your inner truth; “take care of yourself, your own comfort and security.”
As all of us must do, Jesus confronted that inner voice and resists the subtle but real pull of narcissism. He aligns himself with his deepest truth – the divine presence in him. He realized that for him to be fully human, he must love without condition. Luke’s temptation story summarized what happened again and again in the course of Jesus’ public activity.
We have begun our Lenten journey into the desert and I have said nothing about fasting,
prayer and giving alms. These traditional Lenten practices are good if they don’t reinforce
your inclination to narcissism by subtly satisfying your self-interest and gratifying your ego. The subtle pull of narcissism is real in all of us. Narcissists go through life in a state of
unconsciousness and simply exist. They have no experience or awareness of their own deepest inner truth — that we are “filled with the Holy Spirit: and that to be fully human is to love without condition.
So we begin Lent and enter the desert to figure out who we are as baptized people. The wise among us set aside all that distracts; slow down; quiet their souls and breath more deeply. They do so in order to realign self with their deepest truth, first experienced when they were led into the Holy pool of Baptism. Will you join us?