Journey into God’s Merciful Love – The Desert

Week of February 14, 2016

We begin by entering the desert.  Every Lent we embrace our resolves for the desert.  Every year we are excited about the possibilities of where self-reflection, self-discipline and self-awareness might lead us.  We are filled with newfound energy if what we started on Ash Wednesday is still working.  Today we enter knowing that the only protection we have in the desert is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit.  It is this same Spirit that will guide us when we are tempted by the devil.

The first temptation Jesus experiences is hunger. What do we crave? Attention? Food? Power? Knowledge? Many times we use other things to mask that which we are really craving.  I am the kind of person who eats when under stress.  Eating is not the issue.  What causes the stress is the issue.  In the past weeks since the break-in, I have embraced more stress in my life. It is as if I am always looking over my shoulder to see if someone is casing the place for a future break-in.  This kind of thinking is a vicious cycle.  What is the real temptation, what is underneath this stress?  It is the feeling of failure. The safety I thought we had at St. Anne failed and therefore, I feel as if I have failed. I was craving success and peace and it was taken with the theft.  As I walk into the desert the challenge for me is to not allow myself to be consumed by that event.  It is to stop looking at myself as a failure for not preventing this from happening.  Not being a failure is what drives me and the temptation can be real.  Evil has me second guessing and thinking.  When I do that I am distracted from the grace of God’s goodness.  Instead, I need to realize that the only thing in my control is how we protect our stewardship and put in a good security system that can bring us some peace.  Jesus invites us into the desert experience to allow us to look at what is behind the temptations we experience.

The second temptation is about power.  When do we feel powerless?  What do we do to avoid that feeling?  Sometimes we may put others down or we may side with a popular group so that we don’t feel alone. Sometimes we bully others. The temptation is about not always being in charge.  The temptation is about not always having the control. It might be about what we think of others who are in authority or in charge.  Disrespect of parents, babysitters and teachers can easily be drawn into this temptation.

The last temptation is about our relationship with God. Do we respect God?  Do we take His mercy and forgiveness for granted?  Have we truly trusted His promise?  At times we may feel abandoned by God.  At times we can push aside trust and do it all on our own until we fail.  This temptation is about prayer and our exploration of God’s desire for us.  If we think we know enough about God, so that we never seek adult faith formation or mature study, or if we clutter our schedules with stuff and do not keep the holy days sacred or Sundays special, all of this finds its roots in what Jesus is facing in this temptation.

When we are faced with these temptations, the desert is a place where we need to look with truth-filled eyes at ourselves.  What hinders us?  What do we crave?  How are our relationships with others?  Temptations abound, yet Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit.  We too are led by the Holy Spirit in these days.

To journey is to leave where we are and move forward.

Rev. John J. Ouper