Tuesday July 23, 2019
7:45 am

Jesus shows us our 40 days in the desert is a time to be resolute

       Think of those times we feel most vulnerable. When we’re dieting, it’s when those gnawing pangs of hunger hit and that chocolate cake looks mighty good. When we’re in the dark late at night with a storm raging outside, that’s when the monsters seem to come closing in. When we allow ourselves to become legends in our own minds, that’s when reality tends to take us down a peg.  

       Or, when we find ourselves alone with no one to hold us accountable, isn’t that the when becomes the easiest to justify giving into any manner of temptation our minds might conjure up?

      In this weekend’s Gospel (Lk 4:1-13) we find Jesus in the desert where he has prayed and fasted for forty days. Why, you might ask?

       If we flip back a chapter to Luke 3:21, we recall that when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, heaven opened wide and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. The voice from heaven announced, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

       With such a glowing endorsement, Jesus might have stepped confidently and boldly out to start his ministry. But no, instead he started his ministry by going into the desert to pray. He was alone. He ate nothing. Certainly his body weakened. And look who comes slithering around the corner with his bag of temptations – Satan.

        Yes Satan, hoping that Jesus would be longing for food, something to fill that emptiness. Silly devil. He mocks Jesus, saying that if he was, indeed, the Son of God, Jesus would turn that rock into fat loaf of bread. Instead, Jesus reminds his adversary that one does not live on bread alone.

       Taking Jesus up the mountainside, Satan offers him power, showing him all the kingdoms of the earth, saying they could be his, if only Jesus would worship him. That would sure save Jesus a lot of footwork but not worth the cost. Tempting, but no thanks. “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

       Jesus: 2. Satan: 0.

       Finally, Satan leads him into Jerusalem, up to the top of the temple. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you. With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

       I don’t know about you, but if I had just spent 40 days fasting in the desert and some devil was tempting me, I might have given into this last temptation, just to prove a point and get rid of that nagging little voice.

       Jesus’ response? “You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test.”

       We know the lure of temptation, especially during those many times when we’re vulnerable. Isn’t that exactly the time when it’s easiest to give in…when we’re running on empty?

       What gave Jesus the strength to avoid temptation? What gave him the confidence to stand up to Satan and his clever temptations? Why was it seemingly so easy for him when standing up to temptation is so hard for us?

       The answer is that Jesus was not empty. The first words of the passage tell us that: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.” He was not alone; his Father was with him. And, instead of becoming weaker, he grew in strength and determination for the mission he was about to undertake.

       These forty days in the desert we call Lent can be a similar experience for us. In one of his writings, Pope Francis noted: “…in the desert we can do deeper, where our destiny, life or death, is really played out.” For the asking, we, too, may be filled with the Holy Spirit. We, too, can feel the presence of the Father in our lives.

       So, how will we come out the other side of these forty days of Lent? Will we continue to be hungry, broken, scared and alone? Or we will we step forward into our destiny, as Jesus did, resolute in the direction we are meant to take, filled with the Spirit, waiting for God to tell us: ‘With you I am well pleased.”

      

Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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