The first line of St. Matthew’s Gospel today tells us that Jesus was LED by the spirit into the desert: which means this is something Jesus may not have chosen to do on his own –
--a place he may not have wanted to go –
--which led to a confrontation he may not have desired to have.
Jesus was LED by the spirit into the desert. . .
And in Jesus’ solitary confinement in the desert – used in prisons to break the spirit, weaken the heart, and confuse the mind in order to make a person more cooperative and docile --- Jesus confronted the basic temptations of humanity:
--the physical temptation to do what feels right = command these stones to become loaves of bread: take care of your own needs, relieve your own hunger, satisfy your longings giving no thought to anyone else.
Jesus confronted --the emotional temptation to question God’s love = if you are the son of God, throw yourself off the temple – God will catch you, if God really loves you. . . don’t worry about taking care of yourself, rely on others to take care of you – they will – if they really love you.
And Jesus confronted --the temptation to control --- to have power over others = all these kingdoms I will give you if you bow down and worship me. . .
be powerful, take control, be the one in charge – don’t worry if you have to step over a few people on your way to the top. . .
In the face of such temptations and circumstances – Jesus chose to be a victor – rather than a victim – by turning to God and allowing God to be the determining force at work in his life:
-one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God.
-no one should put the Lord, our God, to the test.
-get away satan – the lord our God shall one worship-- and God, alone, should one serve.
And then a miracle – an unexpected happening occurred right there in the desert: angels came and ministered to Jesus.
And after this solitary confinement in the desert – rather than emerging with a broken spirit, a weakened heart, and a confused mind --- Jesus emerged with the strength of what was said of him at his Baptism: “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” – and Jesus “began to preach and say: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus emerged from the desert as a victor – rather than a victim.
Many of us –dare I say all of us – in the course of our lives have ended up in places and circumstances we may not have chosen on our own – places and circumstances and situations and occurrences where we may not have wanted to go – which led to confrontations we may not have desired.
In other words, we have all been where Jesus has been – we have all be led into the deserts of loneliness, despair, anger, resentment, fear, depression, desolation, withdraw, abandonment, hatred and perhaps even violence – led there by our own choices – or more tragically or unfortunately – by the choices and actions of others.
And in the darkness and pain of our deserts – our spirits can be broken – our hearts can be weakened – and our minds can be confused.
But then we do have a choice – to stay in the darkness of being a victim --- or to choose to come out of the tunnel into the light of Christ, choosing to be a victor. . .
And the turning point of that choice is whether we let the values of the world be the ultimate determining factor of our lives --- or whether or not we chose GOD to be that ultimate driving force. . .
Whether we buy into an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth -- or offer no resistance to one who is evil.
Whether we choose to love our neighbor and hate our enemy – or love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Whether we choose to strive for perfection, or just settle for being pretty good – in the big things, and not worry about the little things.
It’s true -- we cannot control what other people say and do – and where their poor choices may led us --- but we can chose to control what we say and do – and how we react to what they say and do.
As Dr. Martin Luther King once said: “darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that. And hatred cannot drive our hatred; only love can do that.”
We come out of the darkness of the tunnel, and into the light of Christ -- when we choose to be victors, rather than victims.
And then from time to time miracles – unexpected happenings do occur in our lives: God does send angels of compassion and mercy to minister to us.
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