The Temptations of Jesus in the Desert
On Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, many of us heard the Gospel about the the temptations of Jesus in the desert. We’ve heard it so many times that the reality of the story can be lost on us. In the missalette we use at our Motherhouse, there is a drawing, quite modern, of Jesus curled up against an outcropping of rock, with His Hands raised against the wiles of the deviI. I saw that picture and felt ice at the bone, because it seems filled with terror–the terror some of us may have felt when we were suddenly face to face with an evil that threatened to destroy us. Clearly the artist wanted us to get a sense of the power of evil as Jesus faced it in the desert that day, and, heartbreakingly, would later encounter it in His Passion.
There is a small volume you may have seen entitled Give Us This Day published by the Benedictines out of Collegeville, MN. It carries the daily Mass readings for each month, with reflections, prayers and biographies of the Saints. Yesterday’s reflection on the Gospel, by Sister Jeremy Hall, noted that this temptation took place in the desert at the dawn of Jesus’ public ministry, and that it might seem surprising that He so often during that ministry returned to the desert to pray. Most of us would avoid like the plague places that carry negative memories for us–the restaurant where we received a phone message about the death of a loved one, a park where we felt threatened by a stranger, a road where we had a serious car accident. Yet here is Jesus in a close encounter with absolute evil, and later this site becomes the very place where He goes to meet His Father in prayer–not once, but often!
Sister Jeremy suggests that there is something to be learned from this (isn’t there always something to be learned from the Gospel?) that we might miss. Here in this desert, Jesus in His humanity experienced something that must have been too awful for words. But instead of being destroyed by the sheer dread of it all, He found in it (again, humanly speaking) the means to a closer union with His Father. He returned to that place not in terror, but to find peace, strength and inspiration for His Mission. What comfort there is to be found in that realization.
In all the places of my fears, there God waits for me. In the remembered pain of my life, there will be peace, strength and inspiration if I seek God there. Along the fractured paths of my own existence, I can reach out and find the Heart of God waiting to show me how much He loves me, to hold me close and tell me that He was with me there through it all. Then I can begin to heal. I don’t have to carry those burdens any longer, because I will come to know that in the darkest night He shines His Light.
Not my usual meditation on the temptations of Jesus in the desert, for sure. But it’s one that I needed to share with you because it was so powerful for me. This is one more proof that God did indeed send “Someone with skin on” to show me in real life how deep is the Father’s Love. I pray You find the same conviction….
As always, in that deep Love.
Mother Marie Julie