The temptations of Jesus Christ point to the everyday experience of human beings –our tussle with seductive power and wealth. I find it intriguing that Luke does not address our third basic persuasion (sex).
This is a bit of a side but, for those who do not know, the knots on my cord stand for poverty, obedience and chastity – how to deal holistically with money, power and sexuality- the issue for every believer. The Gospel directly tackles but two of three.
Underneath the lure of food and of kingdoms for Jesus is an identity struggle. Once alone, Jesus’ first temptation is to serve himself and himself only. Through this struggle he emerges (as St. Augustine says “struggle and emerge” like Jesus Christ). He emerges zealous to worship and to serve God alone. And, in time, Jesus would show all that to do so is to love brother and sister, the poor, the meek, the merciful, the abandoned, the lost and the confused. As Christ becomes who He is He becomes for others; we do the same.
This week, as you know, the Pope resigned and by and large the reaction from around the world has been positive but there are some who are less than impressed. Few of these sorts have spoken out but an Italian politician, the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator, has ranted that Benedict is out of line. “The Pope is not any man,” she said this week, “he has no right to resign. Jesus stayed on his cross and the Pope should stay on his.” Alessandra Mussolini goes on to fret that the Popes’ resignation “will weaken the Church."
But back to Jesus: Why did he exist and what did he learn about himself in the wilderness?
St. Paul says that there is only one Lord and that is Jesus Christ. For believers this Christ is generous, inclusive and above all who remain equal. God, Jesus learned, is the Lord whom all worship and the Lord whom all serve. The Lord of Jesus Christ is the God who serves Him. Ours’ is the Lord who, though tempted, serves us.
As people of God we are constantly tempted, as Christ was in the wilderness, to serve only ourselves. We struggle to accept that in order to worship and to serve God we must let go; after the example of Jesus Christ we must give ourselves to relationship. Because God is not known until creation makes God known. God is not loved until what God creates is beloved. God is served where God is present, in the poor, in the Word, and in the Eucharistic feast.
As children of God may we, like Christ, be tempted. May this wilderness teach us who we are, and lead us to worship and to serve our God alone.