Come Forth Strong! Go Forth Weak! | Word from the Shepherd No. 168

1st Sunday of Lent | Year C
Dt 26:4-10; Rom 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

“A mouse was always in distress because of its fear of the cat. A magician took pity on it and turned it into a cat. But then it became afraid of the dog. So the magician turned it into a dog. Then it began to fear the panther, so the magician turned it into a panther. Whereupon it was full of fear for the hunter. At this point, the magician gave up. He turned it into a mouse again saying, “Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse.” – De Mello

Something happened at the Baptism of the Lord at the River Jordan. The heavens opened… one like a dove descended… a voice was heard, saying:

“this is My Beloved Son”… filled by the Spirit… was led into the wilderness. The Spirit led Him into the wilderness for a 40-day experience of hunger and deprivation.

And there He was TEMPTED. Three temptations that He had to undergo. Temptations that all baptised, converted, renewed and walking a deeper spiritual life have to face. It is a confrontation with our bodily appetites, the world with all its special offers and the false god that feeds our pride.

  1. The first temptation, symbolised by bread, refers to things of the flesh; they may satisfy all our bodily appetites. This temptation appeals to our desire for a quick fix; for material things as if they are only guarantee of life. These are false  views or false gods. Today they come in the form of materialism, consumerism and hedonism. Instant pleasures, very satisfying and very sedating.
  2. The second temptation is referred to by some as the “night of the spirit”. The world is offered on a silver platter. We gawk at it. The world is beautiful and attractive. It offers wealth and name to escape from our weak human self.
    They are also false gods. They impress us to serve ourselves. Actually we serve our ego, not God.
  3. The third temptation fans our pride.
    Sometimes the very gifts, charisms, status, office or our calling or ministries can become our stumbling block, when we pursue public recognition.
    Though the above mentioned are God’s gifts to us, yet we may forget that fact, and begin seeking recognition and public accolade.
    Sometimes, this temptation is seen as testing God. This occurs when we presume no responsibility for our action as believers, thinking falsely that “God will take care of everything” – even the risks we take and the ‘kamikaze’ we commit.

Just like Jesus, all believers will undergo the above tests. They are not chance events. They are part of our spiritual life. The newly baptised, the converted, the renewed, the called-sent and those embarking on a deeper relationship with the Lord will face them. They go through these phases: the encounter, the wilderness, the tests; the emerging enlightened or remaining unchanged or losing heart.

To survive this test phase, we can learn from Jesus.

  1. Know your Origin & Identity: He knew God. He knew Himself.
  2. Know that God’s service is not self-serving;
  3. Know that  God’s time and way are never our way and time.

We see deep COMMUNION, a deep awareness of IDENTITY and deep KNOWLEDGE of the ways of God. No wonder Jesus was unshakeable, and unwavering. Be ready for temptations. Be ready to be tested. Entering the desert or the wilderness is an essential purification exercise. Come forth strong or come forth weak.