With today’s Gospel let us journey with Jesus into the desert. After his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus is filled with the Spirit and knows that he is the beloved Son of God. Continuing to guide him, the Spirit leads him into the desert. Jesus is aware that this is an important time of reflection because he is about to begin his public ministry. Having experienced life in his home town of Nazareth and other places, he is already considering what it means to be “about his Father’s business”. He has thoughts on what he is for and what he is against, but he needs clarity. To summarize potential struggles he will face, Luke sees Jesus being tempted by the devil in three major areas: what will nourish his life, what will he promote and how will he engage others around his message.
The devil appears near the end of Jesus’ time in the desert when he has fasted 40 days. He is hungry and vulnerable. It is in this famished condition that the devil chooses to bring the first temptation: he challenges Jesus, the Son of God, to turn the stone into bread. Jesus will not be sidetracked with a reaction to immediate needs; but rather, considers the deeper response which has been nourishing his life. His life is not lived by only by satisfying basic needs, but by understanding the Word of God. We know that reflecting on the Scriptures has been important to Jesus because even as a boy of 12, he spent time in the temple in dialogue with the leaders of his day. Over the years, he was deepening his awareness of the presence of God in his life.
In the second temptation, the devil shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world and assures him that all of the power and glory of the devil would be given to him if only Jesus would throw himself down and worship the devil. Here Jesus is faced with how he will use his power and for what purpose. He responds to Satan clearly that we only worship and serve the Lord our God. For Jesus, this means that he will not compromise his mission for any reason. He will not be seduced by money, prestige or possessions. Jesus is mindful that he is about promoting the presence, the reign of God in the world, which can be known through lives that demonstrate justice, peace and love. Jesus power is his authenticity; as he walks the talk of his message.
In the third temptation, the devil places Jesus on the parapet of the temple (certainly a grand action) and encourages him to throw himself down, so that the angels will guard and support him. Satan is testing Jesus to spread the message with bold and spectacular actions and not by being attentive to following the will of God. In Jesus’ life he is to engage the poor, to alleviate burdens of the suffering, and provide a deeper understanding of God in the lives of others. This temptation to sensationalism will be revisited again when he hangs on the cross and with the religious leaders mocking and telling him to come down, to prove that he is the Son of God and then they would believe.
At this time, let us consider the movement of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life. It was important that Jesus be affirmed as the Son of God before being led by the Spirit into the desert. With this understanding he was ready to discern how he would live his life for God. After this time in the desert, the power of the Spirit was within him as he returns to Galilee to begin his public ministry.
During Jesus’ life he taught the apostles one prayer—the Our Father. St. Theresa of Avila says that if we only say this prayer, we have said all that we need to consider for our lives. This prayer contains the themes from his desert experience. We are able to call God our Father because we are a beloved child of God. We remind ourselves that we are to follow God’s will for us in building up the kingdom, the reign of God through justice, peace and love. That our service, however humble, is to bring that loving presence of Christ wherever we are and to not think that we need to resort to grand sensational means to do so. In discerning God’s will for us, we need to study, reflect, pray and dialogue with others to build right relationships that promote lives of justice, peace and care for the integrity of creation.
We receive the daily bread of God that nourishes us, and we strive to make a world free, not only from physical hunger, but spiritual hunger—the deep yearnings of people’s hearts-- with the message of the Scriptures. Jesus also gives us himself; through the Eucharist we become his presence. St. Francis of Assisi asks of us to preach the Gospel always only use words, if necessary. We are to become the presence of God for others. In our lives, we will face temptations, but God is there to guide us so that we don’t fall into sin.
Hopefully, this sharing will also encourage you this Sunday, to do your personal reflection on your desert journey. May God bless you during this Lenten time.
Sheila Kinsey, FCJM
Sr. Sheila Kinsey, a member of the Franciscan Sisters Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (FCJM), is the Executive Co-Secretary for the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission of the Union of Superior Generals (USG) and International Union of Superior Generals (UISG). She was appointed to the position in 2015, upon completion of her term as general councilor for her congregation in Rome. She is actively involved in issues related to poverty, human rights, refugees and migrants, anti-trafficking, peacebuilding, environment, sexual abuse and collaboration, and currently serves as the Coordinator of the UISG Campaign: Sowing Hope for the Planet.
Prior to her coming to Rome, Sr. Sheila was a teacher, principal, diocesan religious education director, coordinator of a Diocesan Lay Leadership Ministry Program and directress for new membership in her community. She was also director of a shelter for abused women and their children who were with them. Her doctoral dissertation was on Truth and Compassion: Faith Sharing Groups for Victims of Domestic Abuse.
She held the position of Vice-President of Resident and Community Relations of Franciscan Ministries affordable housing program, a member of the Sponsorship Board and the coordinator of the JPIC Office for the Wheaton Franciscans. She developed the program/process known as Integrity for Nonviolence in which the behaviors were incorporated into the expectations of job performance for the employees of healthcare and housing for Wheaton Franciscan Service.
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