It must have driven the devil nuts to have Jesus reject his oh so appealing temptations and then to behold the real miracle that Jesus performed during those long 40 days fasting in the wilderness, i.e., the miracle of Jesus’ inner transformation: His identity and mission remained intact; His trust in God confirmed; His purpose restored and grace was received so that our lives may be fulfilled.
In today’s Gospel, after Jesus is baptized by John but before His public ministry of teaching, healing, and touching lives, Jesus is driven by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness.
He opens himself to confront whatever his journey there may present.
Where else but the Bible’s hi-drama setting of the desert could Jesus have such a momentous encounter with the Holy Spirit and the devil, with wild animals and angels?
There, after 40 days, Jesus is challenged on the deepest levels of His being and self-understanding - - his identity as the Son of God. Would He continue to hear the Holy Spirit’s call or fall for the devil’s appeals to use his powers for all the wrong reasons?
In the Mystery of His Desert experience Jesus shows us how our desert times can lead us to a place of renewed life and direction: of discovery, and fresh experience of God, AND of ourselves.
Spiritual wildernesses, like physical ones, are almost always places of transformation – skimpy on comfort, but heavy on emptiness, on testings of inner resources, and on seeking and finding the strength for what may lie ahead.
And so led by the Spirit we come to St. Alfonsus to retreat from the everyday. We come to open our hearts and minds and invite God to speak to us, to deepen our understanding of ourselves, our identity as daughters of God, and to strengthen our Faith.
Facing up to one’s temptations and exposing the times we’ve thrown in the towel takes radical honesty and guts. Like Jesus, the breathtaking stories that the women so generously shared with us this Journey weekend occurred at the spiritual crossroads of their lives. They reveal the many agonizing ways of being tempted to fulfill basic human and survival needs, stories of women who forgot their worth and very identities as daughters of God.
For them and for us, these so-called demons are the sum total of all negative events, betrayals, losses, and harm inflicted and internalized which gather force and momentum until they tempt us to resolve them in illusory ways that restore nothing.
These stories give us insight into the brokenness that can threaten us.
Even though our brokenness may differ from theirs – at some point this weekend we may have perceived how many are the ways we’re tempted to be self-serving; how immense our need for approval; how insidious the ways we undermine ourselves; and how in stormy or empty times we cry out ‘prove that you are God’, only to lose faith in Him and despair when he seems to be absent, but in reality HE is not!
The good-news, courageous women of this weekend show us how they had to survive until a compassionate hand of a ministering angel/friend or a Parish like Presentation reached out to them; how with the Help of the Holy Spirit they began to transform their wildernesses into sacred landscapes of spiritual resource. As they began to experience God’s hand in their daily lives, their identities as daughters of God were restored and their hands began to reach out to others.
The stories of these women’s lives confirm that spiritual growth is often about healing our inner image. They help us to see God in the most intimate moments of life. These are the moments that shine like a light in the darkness in which we see more clearly, hear loudly, and feel more deeply that God is with us on our journey. These are moments in our seasons of becoming whole when we awaken to our True Selves in God.
During his life Jesus, like us, will come to be tested many more times. He too is growing in Consciousness. But he continues everywhere and all the time going about His Father’s business, which is living and working for us, to narrow the gap - - both perceptual and real - - between the Divine and the human, thereby fulfilling God’s agenda to plant the Holy Spirit deep inside us.
In Breaking the Bread at the Last Supper and inviting us to drink from His Cup, Jesus promises his Everlasting love and gives His very Life to us to become the New Covenant of Love which covers us all.
The ministering Jesus gives us renewed life and strength: He seals our identity and affirms our true worth as women and daughters of God. He guides us in discerning how best to become the face and hands of Christ for others, and to realize in today’s Gospel that “this is the time of fulfillment.”
So let us all take a Deep Breath in the Holy Spirit’s Light that will help us live knowing we are the Beloved of God and growing ever-more aware of God’s Presence within us and in all of Creation.
In the words of R. Rohr. “Each and every creature is a unique word of God, with its own message, its own metaphor, its own energetic style, its own way of showing forth goodness, beauty, and participation in the Great Mystery. Each creature and each woman has its own glow and its own unique glory.”
Written and beautifully delivered by Elena 2-22-15 at Women’s Journey Retreat.
Permission granted to post her homily by Elena and the Journey committee.