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Monday, 27 March 2017 14:01

Lent is about healing humanity

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Fr Claude Mostowik msc 150Jesus was tempted to see God’s reign in terms of controlling everything –where the world would be pain-free if he took power to himself – thus making a sham of any genuine love, writes CRA Network Coordinator Fr Claude Mostowik msc, as he reflects on the temptations of Jesus in the desert.

Jesus’ example of facing temptation and overcoming it reminds us that justice can only be done as we learn to live lives of discipline and simplicity, of consideration and sharing, of prayer and service. Jesus was tempted to see God’s reign in terms of controlling everything –where the world would be pain-free if he took power to himself – thus making a sham of any genuine love. We see that obtaining worldly power demands turning one’s back on God and the human vocation to love. Pope Francis has described the devil’s kingdoms as the places where ‘everything comes under the laws of competition ... where the powerful feed upon the powerless’ (Evangelii Gaudium, ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ #53). But Jesus offers an unequivocal ‘no’ to the idolatry of power. He declines the invitation to a life dedicated to self-service rather than love, compassion, solidarity and justice. He rejects enticements to power and greed in order to say yes to his vocation as God’s Son.

Our humanity is constantly attacked: to think small, to be mean; to be loveless; to seek violent ways of responding to conflict; to seek the easy way out. Jesus always models a way to be human; how we can be people with a heart and passion of God for humanity and creation. He models ways in which we can resist all that does not promote fullness of life for ourselves and other.

If the gospel causes us to be less engaged, less relational, less people of the heart then it is distorted and fails to reflect God’s loving heart in Jesus. This is the kind of religion we should give up for Lent. We see in the temptations of Jesus the drive to substitute the fullness of life for self-centredness and greed; obsession with reputation and power, the need to control and manipulate; the temptation to a small, safe, comfortable and conventional life.

When presented with political power in the world and tempted to show his stuff and muster his magic, Jesus reserves glory for God alone. Political power today is clearly reflected in military spending, the manufacture and sale of arms, making and laying of landmines, development of nuclear weapons; environmental destruction, use of vengeance and revenge as some short cut way of making peace. Though trillions of dollars and pounds and Euros are spent on bombs, only some will be used. But they still explode in peoples’ faces: the faces of millions who hungry, homeless, lack education or decent health care, have no food, no shelter, no education, no decent health care.

Jesus offers an alternative to the way of power and domination of the world. The sin of the ‘first humans’ was to reject their humanness. Jesus would not step outside the confines of humanity. Even when ‘good ends’ were dangled in front of him, he resisted displays of control, power, domination and manipulation. He preferred to draw people to himself by remaining faithful to his full identification with us which began at his baptism when he stepped into the waters of the Jordan with the rest of those people there. Jesus says 'Yes' to another world – a world of justice and integrity; a world of human life and dignity; a world of acceptance and inclusiveness.

The propensity to grasp rather than receive infects our lives, crafting economic and political structures that protect ourselves at the expense of others. These can creep into the tiny choices we make every day between loving or resisting love. An unrestrained search for power, even when carried out with good intentions, leads to evil ways. The end does not justify the means. Going to war to build peace; to make the world safe for freedom and democracy; to protect our national interests! The story of temptations should be read with an eye towards the attitudes of human beings toward power - those attitudes present in Jesus' time as well as those attitudes we see present in our time.

The justice of God's Reign requires living in ways that are consonant with this justice. With respect to living out the demands of our humanity and justice, the temptations show us that we constantly face 'short cuts' that are proposed to us.

There is little evidence that people actually hear God's word 'in Church'. No doubt there are exceptions. Usually God gets the message across to us in our day-to-day lives. God's work in Jesus was accomplished in the wilderness, in the world. Sometimes our voices have to be strident in order to get the message across to those who are comfortable in their little world and unable or unwilling to hear about others. Stridency is inevitable when issues of justice and injustice are involved. It could be part of the movement of the Spirit. The issues and questions that God is concerned about are those about our relationships in our day-to-day lives - and these are the questions God confronts us with as we live in this world.

What have we learned by going our own way? We have learnt how to make wars and advanced weapons of war; cheat on another; lie for our own gain; elect leaders that represent our narrow concerns and interests against the 'others'; exclude the poor from our vision and concern; busy ourselves so that we do not have to reflect on our nakedness. The media gives us daily examples of how we have gained 'knowledge' and how we use it against one another and ourselves.

We have a share in the practice of injustice and violence but we also have a share in trying, with Christ, to restore and heal the world. Lent is about healing - our healing and the world’s healing; it is about connecting with one another, the environment and God. It is about redistribution and solidarity. It is about compassion. It is about making God’s heart visible in our lives. Lent is that special time of the year when each of us is called to see what is truly ‘in our hearts.’ And to help us do that, we do as Jesus did: We go into the ‘wilderness’ for 40 days; we pray, fast, and remind ourselves again to be faithful to what our true calling is: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’

Rev Peter J. Gomes says, ‘The question should not be 'What would Jesus do?' but rather, more dangerously, 'What would Jesus have me do?' The onus is not on Jesus but on us, for Jesus did not come to ask semidivine human beings to do impossible things. He came to ask human beings to live up to their full humanity; he wants us to live in the full implication of our human gifts, and that is far more demanding.’

This edited version was first published in the March-May 2017 issue of Adelaide Voices, an independent, social justice print newspaper published every two months.

To subscribe to Adelaide Voices, contact the Editor: Adelaide Voices Inc, PO Box 6042, Halifax Street SA 5000, AUSTRALIA.