For the Journey

We pray this week with the listening Jesus. This past week, we watched his being baptized and his going public as the Christ. He heard his Father publicly announcing that he is the Beloved.

In the Gospel of Matthew, this baptism takes place at the end of the third chapter. Matthew offers us the drama of Jesus’ listening to the Tempter at the beginning of the very next chapter. Ignatius presents us with the same sequence. Jesus, because he has listened to his Father’s ordaining voice, is free to listen to the unordaining or discrediting temptations of the Evil One.

We enter the scene to watch and listen ourselves to the attractiveness of the devil’s invitations and the simplicity of Jesus’ self-acceptance. Jesus does more than reject the temptations; he more honestly receives himself. We are aware of our attractions to riches, power, and control. These are all so many ways of trying to find and express our fragile selves. Ignatius offers to those who would want to follow Jesus the experience of rejecting the falseness of any identities that come from material or social validation. Jesus has listened and believed and now begins the life of living out his belief in his Father and who he is in his Father’s own words.

We pray this week watching the devil try to impeach Jesus. It is a tense debate and we are encouraged to be faithful to the tensions created by our own fragile senses of who God says we are. The Evil One constantly works to falsify our sense of our dignity, our ordination into Christ, and our holiness. We too have been baptized into Christ and his dignity. We too hear the insistent urgings to not believe in the me whom God has created and Jesus has blessed.

We perhaps listen to the sigh of relief that Jesus makes at the departure of the Tempter. Perhaps it is a prayer of gratitude and a peaceful prayer of trust that comes from his knowing who he really is. He also knows the Tempter will return in many ways during his life and that it is not the last time his baptismal ordination will be challenged. We may watch him resting there alone but not unaccompanied. He is beginning to experience the unity between him and his Father, which does not have to be proved by changing stones into bread.

Ignatius invites us in the Spiritual Exercises to walk more by faith in the care of God’s love than by using signs and proofs as crutches for the journey. This pilgrimage to which we are called is not easy and extremely against the ways of our world and our own natural desires for maps, road signs, and assurances. We pray patiently with ourselves this week and watch Jesus turn knowingly toward us as he invites us to pick up our fragile lives and walk into his future and our own.

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