Saturday, February 28, 2009

First Sunday of Lent

Jesus’ journey into the wilderness is a striking call to action. There are always those who would like to portray it as a flight from the world, but this would empty it of its value. The act of retreat, of taking yourself to one side in order to be with God, requires a certain courage. Being alone with God is to be aware that you are completely known and loved; God’s understanding of me is greater than my own, and he calls me into prayer.

Jesus withdraws in order to prepare himself for his ministry; it is a period of consolidation, and of growth. When the devil tempts him and offers him an opportunity to demonstrate his power, Jesus shows that this type of power does not tell the truth about who he is.

When the Lord calls us into prayer, into retreat, into devotion, he is not asking us to move into a hidden realm where everything conforms to some ideal in our heads. He is calling us to rest with Him, to acknowledge our own weakness and vulnerability, and to trust Him. To trust is to be vulnerable, and is very difficult.

To trust is to accept that I don’t have all the answers, that I do not create the reality around me, that I do not create myself, or merely ‘brand’ some kind of identity into existence. It is to accept that in all things the human being is totally dependent upon God’s power and love.

This is the power than can transform me. It is the power that lifts me out of all pretence, out of all play-acting, and lets me see who I am. God will lift the veil from my eyes and invite me to see the whole of creation with his own perspective, which has a breadth I cannot imagine.

When I trust in this power, my action will be changed. I will be different. There will be a new unity of word and action: authenticity. I will be a new sign to the world, a sign of one whose words speak only of truth and of love.

At some point, even my understanding of ‘I’ will share in this transformation, and I will discover that I am only a witness. That is the decisive moment: it is the moment when the power of God is shown forth in me.

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