We have begun our Lenten journey and the Gospel readings tell us the story of Jesus’ temptation by Satan when in the desert. It sounds dramatic, almost like a Hollywood movie, and remote to our daily 21st Century lives! Most of us live in large cities when we have little or no contact with nature, let alone a wilderness. But if we think about it for a minute wildernesses can be within ourselves as well as in nature. Who hasn’t felt that our lives was in a wilderness of danger and peril? The times when we feel painfully alone? Or when no one seems to understand or care for us? Or when our entire self is wracked with grief over a love one’s death? Or maybe when we realize the harm we did to someone through selfishness, envy or spite? The wilderness for modern Americans are mainly the empty voids in relationships and within ourselves. It is during these times which we can feel tempted to give up, lash back, seek simple solace in drugs or alcohol or give up on God.
Today’s Gospel should give us hope during our ‘wilderness experiences’. While we seem alone, confused or abandoned God promises to be with us and give us strength to resist temptations which lead to destruction of ourselves or others. With God we are far stronger than we can ever imagine! God does not take away our suffering or pain but Christ showed us the way through these in order to rely more on God and develop deeper compassion for others who suffer.
While temptations are real so is the Holy Spirit, actively encouraging us to love, do good and help others. Perhaps you are being moved now to pray for the doctors serving for the Mission Doctors Association and maybe donate some money to help their work healing God’s poor.
Brother John Kiesler, OFM