Monday, March 2, 2009

Temptations in the Desert

This is adapted from a piece which originally appeared in "Wednesday Morning Connection"

We tend to mark and measure history through wars and the pursuit of power. The twentieth century is commonly divided by its many wars - World War I, World War II, the cold war and, now, the war on terrorism. The news is dominated by power and the pursuit of it whether it is politicians seeking cabinet positions in the Obama administration, businesses clawing for market share or countries fighting over territory.

In stark contrast, we find Jesus alone in a desert wilderness seeking the will of God. It is far from the lush paradise of plenty which was the site of humanity's first temptation. His forty day fast recalls the journey of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. Seemingly weakened by deprivation, he faces the temptations which have beset world history from its inception - to grasp after power, to sell one's soul for bread, and to make an idol of what we can see and possess. Jesus, the most powerful man to ever walk the earth, submitted Himself to God's will which was the real source of His power. And so, Jesus teaches us that real power lies not in imposing our will, but in accepting God's will.

In that wilderness, far from another human soul, history started along a new direction. No longer can we understand it in terms of the domination of one people over another through violence. History is now moving inexorably toward the fulfillment of God's will. Jesus, the Alpha, the pattern of creation, is also the Omega, who will bring history to its climax by judging the living and the dead under the law of love. Unfortunately, it is not yet the end of violence, but an inspiration and a power for peace. We are learning, however slowly, that the will to power has only led to bloodshed and the despoliation of the earth.

We are either participating and ordering our lives along this new dynamic or measuring our lives and our history by the old metric of violence and domination.

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