Sunday, January 19, 2014
In those days Jesus . . . was baptized by John in the Jordan. . . . And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan . . . . (Mark 1:9-13)
The verb St. Mark used for “drove him out” – ekballō – carries the idea of being compelled to do something. The word for ‘tempted” – peirazō – carries a sense of being tested to see how a person will behave in a particular situation. And so this was no cake-walk for the One who is fully God and fully Man. Forty days. Hungry. Cold. Alone. Battling His enemy’s relentless subtle and not-so-subtle attacks. A place of stark, barren deprivation. And yet, just before the Father impelled Him into that place, He called Jesus His “beloved Son.”
A beloved son. It almost defies my ability to reason it through. A beloved son, yet driven by the Father into the wilderness for soul-searing tests. I wonder if the writer to the Hebrews had those days in mind when he wrote of Jesus, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
A beloved son.
I committed my life to Jesus in 1972. I know I am His beloved child. And many times I too have wandered the wilderness during my decades-long journey with Christ. Confused. Bruised. Alone. And the enemy has never failed to whisper his subtle and not-so-subtle lies in my ear, such as: “If you are a beloved child of God, why has He left you alone in this desert?” Or, “If you want out of this mess – here’s how to do it” – which always involved some sin-laden decision he’d also help me rationalize away.
“Father, make me into the image of Jesus.” Isn’t that our prayer? Isn’t that our heart’s cry, to imitate our Savior? To follow in His footsteps? To bear our cross as He bore His? Trials often fall over us because God has impelled us into the desert to nurture our faith, to test our mettle, to show us what we will do in that wilderness, even should it last 40 days, or 40 months – or even 40 years.
Although a beloved son, Jesus “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” So too, we should not be surprised by our own wilderness in which the Father can transform us into the image of Christ. As St. Peter wrote, “let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.”(1 Peter 4:19).
Yes, Holy Spirit, help us entrust ourselves again and again into our Creator’s faithful hands. Amen.