Two stories about Jesus that I think will be a guide for Lent are His calling at the time of his baptism and his temptations in the desert (which immediately follow this ’baptism’ story). The descent of the Spirit into Jesus and the words from on High: you are My son, my beloved son; with you I am very pleased - these elements suggest that now Jesus is receiving his calling. This seems to make perfect sense because from now on, Jesus’ entire life changed: from a quiet worker in Nazareth to the powerful, wise and holy person we know in the Gospels. From now on, (and I use Luke here) he will preach the presence of the Kingdom of God and issue a call to repent so as to be able to enter this Kingdom.
After this understanding of God’s will for him, Jesus goes into the desert to ponder on his new role in life, the Servant of the Lord. In this Gospel episode, Jesus faces three temptations. What is most important here is not what Satan said to Jesus, but what Jesus said to Satan (and to the reader). First, there is only one thing that can assure me of living beyond my death, and that is the word of God - and I do want to live!. Let that word be THE guide for me all through the choices of my life to come. Second, I worship only God. I love many other people, and deeply so. But there is a relationship between me and my Creator that is so overwhelming and so profound that it is only He who gets what I will give only to the Person who most affects my life, my existence. From all the things I give myself to, I will give myself only to God in worship; I worship no one else. Third, I trust God throughly. I do not have to throw myself down from the Temple pinacle, no ask God to prove Himself to me in any other way. I know He loves me and never abandons me, but wants only to bring me home. I have absolute trust in a love which at times I can not understand, but my not understanding does not negate Him intense love of me.
After Jesus understood these three lessons - what is the way to life, who alone is God worthy of my worship, and how much I can trust in God - Jesus is ready to begin a life which is explicable precisely as guided by these three lessons. Psychology was not then a major subject of explicit interest as it is today. But if one asks "what made Jesus tick", the answer lies in his calling and in the wisdom gained in his temptations.
Lent seems to be a very good time to understand one’s calling as a disciple of Christ, a calling that parallels his own being servant of the Lord, a calling that in its own way announces the presence of the Kingdom of God. Lent also seems a good time to deepen one’s understanding of what, of all the good things I know, will give me eternal life, to make sure I give worship to God alone and not to some other God (who did not create me to live forever and cannot give me life forever), and to renew my absolute trust in the love of God, no matter what my circumstances. Lent seems to mean reflection on these things.
John Kilgallen, SJ