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1st Sunday of Lent

posted 14 Feb 2016, 08:06 by St Wilfrid RC Haltwhistle


14th  Feb., 2016 - C


H.B. & 11w.

(After Richard Lyng, The Furrow, Feb., 1998 P. 102)

We cannot avoid the desert. We may keep it at bay for a

time, but the desert is an unavoidable dimension of our

human experience. Our desert is within. It is within that

our beasts roam. It is within that the black holes of

emptiness open up before us. And they threaten to swallow


T.S. Eliot expresses it this way:

In all my years, one thing does not change

However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

Forgetful, you neglect your shrines and churches;

The men you are in these times deride

What has been done for good, you find explanations

To satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.

Second, you neglect and belittle the desert.

The desert is not remote in the southern tropics.

The desert is not only around the corner.

The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you.

The desert is in the heart of your brother.


"So we neglect and belittle the desert at our peril. We can

still the beasts within by short term expedients." We can

anaesthetise them, dope them or distract ourselves from

them. Even Jesus is offered such short term solutions. His

hunger can be satisfied by magic. Stones into loaves of

bread before his very eyes. But Jesus recognises a hollow

promise when he sees one. There is more to our humanity

that physical hunger. Our hunger goes much deeper. And

there is far more to men, women and children than meets

the eye. Stones into bread is a distraction, not a solution to

the real, deep-down hunger within us all.


Interested in solutions rather than distractions, Jesus faces

the power solution. He is faced with the kingdoms of the

world on some kind of fiendish first century satellite dish.

"I will give you all this power and the glory of these

kingdoms", says the devil. And we know that power

attracts. The will to power is one of the four basic drives

that fires every one of us and all our human institutions.

But all power corrupts. The will to power, the temptation

to dominate other people is the most corrupting of all the

human drives. It can transform insignificant people into

cold, cruel monsters. Jesus does not fall for it. Jesus sticks

to his own vision of power. And his vision of power is

service. "The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served."


And the human drive that is superior to self-preservation,

propagation and power is the will to meaning. We need to

make sense of our own identity. We need to make sense of

our role in the world. If we have a "Why" then we can

tolerate any "How". If we have a reason for living, the

circumstances in which that life is lived are secondary. In

the desert, Jesus comes to grips with his identity. In the

desert, Jesus comes to terms with his vocation. Jesus

confronts his darkness. Jesus wrestles with his beasts.

Jesus comes to terms with what must always be a difficult

way of life that will ultimately be fatal. Jesus emerges

from the desert with a clear vision of his vocation. Jesus

emerges from the desert with an unshakeable confidence in

his Father's unconditional love for him and for all. This is

sufficient. This is sufficient and more than sufficient to

sustain him on the journey.


And we too. We too are forced into our desert. Through

illness, old age, unemployment, depression, broken

relationship, addiction, compulsion or betrayal, whatever,

we are-forced into our personal desert. We face our beasts.

Confront them. It helps to recognise our desert. It helps to

know Jesus has been there. And we confront our beasts,-

-With the eyes of faith. We spurn the short term expedient.

We refuse to play the power game. We recognise our

and know we are called to serve. The Son, of Man

comes to serve and so do we.