Lessons from the desert

Lent gives us an opportunity to focus on Christ, to respond
to the invitation to listen to our God who continually encourages us.

 SHOWING THE WAY TO GOD 

By Fr Tom Renshaw SJ, Rector, Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview 

The three temptations of Satan that were put to Jesus in the desert revolve around three aspects of human life that each of us can experience from time to time:  

  • Our need for security as symbolised in the need for bread; 
  • Power and our need to be in control over our destiny; 
  • The question of identity and acceptance.  

Each of these temptations are not bad in themselves. It is good that we provide food for ourselves and each other, that we seek to improve our environment and societies, and finally that each of us, just like Jesus, spend our lives growing into the mystery of who God has made us, especially growing in our ability to accept the love of our all-merciful God and the love of others. However, these temptations can be problematic when, in our response, we are tempted to be totally self-sufficient, when we turn in on ourselves, choosing to live our lives without turning to our God for sustenance and guidance. Jesus did not give into the shadow side of these temptations and was victorious over Satan in the desert.  

On Sunday 25 February, we were invited to contemplate the Transfiguration of Jesus and in particular the interaction that takes places between Jesus, Moses and Elijah on the mountain during the transfiguration. Moses symbolises the Law and Elijah the Prophets. The Lukan account tells us that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus and were speaking of his passing and how this would be accomplished in Jerusalem. During this interaction Jesus is listening to the Law embodied in Moses and is reminded of all the Prophets embodied in Elijah. This moment of transfiguration strengthens Jesus in the mission given to Him by the Father. Following the experience of the transfiguration in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem.  

This is the same invitation extended to us during our own respective Lenten journeys. We are invited to accompany Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. While on the mountain Peter wanted to build the three tents to “hold” the glory of Jesus. However, this does not happen. Instead, the three disciples hear a voice from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to him.” Jesus’ closest disciples are called to listen to him as they accompany him on his way.  

The glory of Jesus does not remain in this moment of transfiguration on the mountain but rather it comes about through the events that unfold in Jerusalem – through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Like Peter, James and John, we cannot remain on the mountaintop as we are called to follow Christ in the here and now. We are invited on mission with Christ today.  

The two Gospel readings for the first two Sundays of Lent reminded us of who Jesus is – he is God’s son, the Beloved. In being called to follow Christ, we are invited more deeply into relationship with our God who is love. We are invited to listen, to listen to what God is calling us to do at this time. This is important because Lent is not a season to turn in on ourselves. While it is important that we spend some time reflecting on our own spiritual journey through prayer and fasting, these acts are designed to create space within our hearts to deepen our relationship with God and our ability and desire to proclaim the Good News to others, including through our works of charity.  

It can be challenging to embrace this invitation, to find time to pray and reflect, to allow our hearts and minds to be touched by Christ. Lent provides an opportunity for us to focus on Christ, to respond to the invitation to listen to our God who encourages us in the good times as well as the times of difficulty and challenge.  

Just like the experience of Peter, James and John on the mountaintop, our God continues to give us glimpses of God’s divinity – whether it be through the beauty of a sunset, or the stars in the sky reminding us of Abraham’s fidelity to God, or an unexpected interaction with a family member, friend or colleague that leaves us feeling deeply loved. When we have these experiences of divine love, we are able to follow Jesus more humbly and more authentically. As a result, when we come to celebrate Easter, our relationship with Jesus – the Beloved – will be strengthened, and through our Lenten journey we will have experienced an increase of faith, hope and love in our lives.  

This article was originally published in a recent edition of the ‘Viewpoint’ newsletter for Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview. 

Banner image by Gyro, Canva.

To enquire about becoming a Jesuit in Australia, contact vocations@sjasl.org.au and for more info, visit our Vocations page.

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