Our journey in the desert: spiritual values or business values?
By Fr. Jude Lemeh CM – Holy Name Parish (Port Moresby)
23 FEB 2013. In this season of Lent, we remember the experience of Jesus in the desert for 40 days (Matt 4:1, 2). We can also liken this season to the journey in the desert which the Jews made from Egypt to Canaan. Our own experience now will be a journey in the desert from the Egypt of sin to the Canaan of redemption. Let us remember that for the Jews at that time, Egypt signified slavery, and they longed for this Canaan of freedom. We all are slaves to sin (Jn 8:33), and we need this passage to the Canaan of redemption. But like the Jews, we have to pass through the desert that we may be purified. What do we see in the desert? Significantly, a desert is a place of hunger, thirst, scorching sun, and sandy soil (which makes walking difficult). In sum, a desert is a place of difficult experiences. It is a place of decision making. As we go through it, we may be tempted to go back to the Egypt of sin, where we think is more comfortable, just like the Jews did (NUM 11:4 – 6). But we should always remember that Jesus has gone through this temptation in the desert as well. He passed through this experience to show us the way and then help us overcome ours (HEB 2:18). Jesus made our experiences, hardships, and temptations his own. The temptations were subtle because they were disguised in the appearance of good: turn stone into bread and feed the nation; take over all kingdoms and satisfy the patriotic longings of the oppressed Jews; jump down from the parapet of the temple to showcase the power of God.
Let us pause here to ask ourselves, what are the things that are valuable in our lives and that we think are good? How do we evaluate things as good? Jesus resisted all the temptations because he established a priority of spiritual values for himself, for his Church, for us. How do we relate our spiritual values to our cultural values, our business values, our clan values, etc? When there is a conflict of interest, what option do we take?
Jesus lived our lifetime in that desert. His temptations are now ours. Do we do things for our own glorification, or to better the lives of others? Do we constantly compete with others for honour and recognition? What is our attitude towards food and drinks? Jesus overcame all our temptations in the desert, but we must make his victory our own by having our own desert experience. He does not promise us to take away all temptations, but to help us overcome them as he did (John 16:33). He brings us into the desert to speak to our hearts in this season (Hosea 2:16). During this desert experience, God speaks to us tenderly, reminding us who we are, and what must have first priority in our lives. As we journey with Jesus in the desert, our hearts are opened to be set free, for he only can set us free (Jn 8:36). Let us then open our hearts to him and have a fruitful Lenten experience that brings conversion and reconciliation.