LENT I (B)
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days. – Mark 1: 12
An organization called “Outward Bound” offers a 26 day course in outdoor living. According to its sponsors, the course is designed to “help people get to know themselves better.” The classroom is a wilderness in which participants are pushed to the limits of their physical endurance as they learn a variety of outdoor skills in groups. After three weeks, the hard work is ended & the groups dissolved. Then each participant is left alone in the woods for three days for the purpose of “getting to know himself or herself better.” Invariably the participants report that the three day “solo” exercise is harder to endure than the physically punishing three week group exercise.
This is not surprising. Any sincere effort to know yourself better requires serious self-examination. In addition, our sound saturated society often becomes a defense against any such examination. We actually fear silence. It threatens us. To “get it all together” as the saying goes, you must put your life in a kind of eternal perspective. To discover more about who you are & what you ought to do, one must engage in a spiritually tough wilderness experience, a difficult “solo” journey down into the depths of one’s being.
There we discover we are not alone, really. With us are God & Satan fighting for our soul. In other words, we are being tempted, as Jesus was tempted. We must choose between Good & Evil, between God-centeredness & self-centeredness, between serving others & self-service, between God’s promise of fulfillment in His divine life of Love or Satan’s promise of fulfillment in creature comforts. Those with enough experience come to realize that the latter promise is empty – it cannot fulfill anything. Jesus knew it intuitively, & said “Get away Satan” (Mt. 4: 10). So Jesus came out of the desert with God alone at the center of His being. He was prepared to carry out His ministry among the people, in harmony with God’s will.
However, keeping God at the center of our life is a constant struggle. Jesus may have overcome Satan in the desert, but as Luke tells us, Satan “departed from him for a time” (Luke 4: 13). In today’s super-materialistic world, there exists a satanic approach to money & possessions that may be pulling more people away from God than any other single cause. In our super-materialistic world, fulfillment means having lots of money.
How wonderful it would be to have a small fortune! How great life would be! How secure life would be! That is Satan speaking. Those of us who have endured the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression know all too well how easy it is to lose financial security. It is an illusion. Many who thought they had saved up for a comfortable retirement find themselves spending their reserves just to keep their heads above water. What the economy hasn’t taken, con artists & identity thieves have.
Satan seems to be using money to test modern man to the limits of his spiritual endurance. If, on examination, you discover the quest for material things has become your number one priority, then Satan has made a comeback in your life & it is time to change. Lent gives us a structured environment in which to do so. It is time to demonstrate that we love God & people more than money. Then Satan will leave you as he left Jesus, & God will meet you at the center of your being. AMEN!