The Gospel this morning, “The Spirit, drove Jesus out into the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (MK 1:12-15)
St Augustine said, “Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trails. We progress by means of trails. No one know himself except through trail, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.” To quote Bob Dylan, “Virtue not tested is no virtue at all.”
One of the greatest graces that God can give us is to bring us into the desert. It is in the desert that we are stripped of our ego, our false self.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read of three temptations Jesus endured. In Chapter 4 of Mathew Gospel we read, “And he fasted forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. But he answered, ‘It is written Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The temptation is make the body needs more important than needs of the soul. We are more concerned about keeping up with the latest happening, gossip more than reading God’s Word.
In the second temptation we read, “Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written. ‘He will give is angels charge of you’…’And on their hands they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Again it is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” This is the temptation to make ourselves the center rather than God. It theology is that God serves me rather than I serve God. The person who falls into the temptation stops going to Church and praying because God didn’t do what they wanted God to do.
In the third temptation we read, “The devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” This temptation is to make money the center of our life. We are consumed with making more and more money. We never have enough.
Raymond LLoyd Richmond PHD in his book, ‘Psychology from the Heart’ gives us many valuable insight, ” From all the things that appeal to us in the world, we create images of how we want to see ourselves, and then we set about making ourselves ‘seen’ in the world so that images can be reflected back to us through the desires of others. Whether it’s business suits or purple hair. Some people desire to be desired with such desperate intensity that you can actually see in their eyes the inner emptiness they seek to fill…As long as you derive your identity from the world around you, you have to be concerned about losing it. Like a dragon sitting greedily on its hoard of treasure, your entire being will be caught up in defending what you are afraid to lose.”
He writes, “As infants, we are just a jumble of diverse biological processes over which we have no authority, and our first task is to develop a coherent identity which ‘pulls together’ this fragmented confusion. This identity may give the appearance of a unified personality, but it really is just a psychological illusion that hides our essential human vulnerability and weakness. And so when anything or anyone threatens us with the truth of our essential fragmentation, the quickest, easiest, and most common defense available- to hide the truth of our weakness and to give the illusion that we possess some sort of power- is aggression….Understand, then, that you are vulnerable to being manipulated by the ‘desires of the Other’ in so far as you seek your identity-that is, your feeling of social acceptance-in other persons around you. As long as you crave the feeling of approval and belonging so as to feel good about yourself, you will be susceptible to desiring whatever the Other shows you is an image of approval and belonging. And that image cab be anything: a physical object, physical or emotional pleasure, an ideology, or even ‘spirituality’ itself.”
Thought for the day: Last Wednesday it was Ash Wednesday. The priest might have said to you, ‘Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” It is a reminder not to take ourselves to seriously. At least for today, if you feel a need to justify yourself or strike our in anger remember these words, “You are dust and unto dust you will return.” When we seek to justify ourselves we are seeking to justify a hand full of dust.