Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gospel text for Sunday 14 February 2016

Luke 4:1-13        After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written,'Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.'"Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,'He will command his angels concerning you,to protect you,'
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Reflection        While in the wilderness Jesus demonstrates the discernment of Spirits. What do we mean by discernment? A dictionary definition  of discernment is “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; to distinguish and select what is true, appropriate or excellent; to penetrate beyond the obvious.” This definition of discernment is all about what we are able to do. We are the active agents. It is about us grasping, penetrating and mastering the situation.
The definition of discernment found in Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises* is, “…our willingness to look at and appreciate the signs of God’s love for us and, in response to the voice of the Spirit of God, follow where the Spirit leads.”  The tone is quite different. Rather than grasping, penetrating or mastering we are willing, listening, and following. God is the active agent. We are willing to respond to God through the leading of the Spirit. I believe this is what is happening with Jesus in the wilderness.

Jesus allows the Spirit of God to lead him to the wilderness (metaphor for the movements of his mind and his heart). The story continues with the devil tempting Jesus to grasp, penetrate or  master his situation rather than follow the Spirit of God. If you are the son of God, prove it by satisfying your hunger. If you are the son of God, do something to improve the social and political situation in the world attain fame. If you are the son of God, leap from the top of this temple and prove you are indestructible.  

Each time the devil taunts, tempts and tries to undermine Jesus’ intention to follow the Spirit of God, Jesus returns to the word of God. When inclined to satisfy his hunger Jesus remembers the counsel to the Israelites in the Hebrew scripture and replies, “I do not live by bread alone;” the word of God is the source of my sustenance and life. (Deut 8.2-3)

When tempted to make an idol of social and political power Jesus remembers Moses’ instructions to the Israelites, (Deut 6.13-14) and replies,“Worship the Lord your God and serve only God.” Finally, when provoked to challenge God’s faithfulness, again, rather than relying on himself Jesus listened to the words of Holy Scripture and replied, "You shall not put the LORD your God to the test…” (Deut 6.16) 

Jesus listens to the word of God and willingly follows the lead of the Spirit of God. Lent is our wilderness time, an opportunity for us to do likewise; sacrifice our inclination to grasp, penetrate and master our situations and instead be willing to listen and follow the lead of the Spirit of God.

*The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, as translated by Louis J. Puhl,S.J.

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