The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we be faithful too!

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The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ February 18, 2018

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.

He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means to test.

One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac?  God was testing him, not tempting him!

So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.

We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles.  It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation.”  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him ~ testing his mettle ~ for his mission.

Then there are these other points to take note .  .  .  .

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12).  Barclay suggests to us that we do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights that that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul.  The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This is an inner struggle.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we almost see the devil.

(Pope Francis in the meditation in the Magnificat liturgical magazine was saying that Christian life is a battle. And then cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, “Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century. And must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.”)

Three, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Four, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.

Five, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness.  No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.

We must always approach this story with unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul.

The story of Jesus moving into the desert this year, of course this year, is from the Gospel of Mark, and it’s very short; in fact it’s only sentence long. It has no dialogue between Jesus and the devil as Matthew and Luke do. But h

Here’s what Barclay has to say. I will add two  comments from the Magnificat liturgical magazine, and then I will fill in with the prose piece I wrote many a year ago . . .  So here are Barclay’s comments . . . .

No sooner than Jesus is has been immersed in his own baptism by John the Jordan River and basks for a moment in that glory that the battle of temptations begins.

Mark tells us that  the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness for his testing time. The very Spirit that came upon him during his baptism.

In this life it’s impossible to escape the assault of temptations; but they’re not sent to make us fail. They’re sent to strengthen the nerve and our sinews of the mind and heart and souls. They’re not meant for our ruin, but for our good.

The Lord once found his people in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert (Dt 32:10) That’s where we first find Jesus and that’s where he first finds us—in a wasteland of sorrow, confusion, suffering, sin. Magnificat

Barclay gives the example of a football player who is showing signs of real promise. The manager isn’t going to put on the third team where he’ll hardly break a sweat, but on the first team where he’ll be tested and have a chance to prove himself.

That’s what temptation is meant to do—to enable us to prove our strength of character and to emerge stronger for the fight.

From this episode, our first lesson should be that human life on earth is a life of warfare and the first thing Christians must expect is to be tempted by the devil. Reading in the Gospel that Jesus was tempted right after he was baptized, they will not grow fainthearted and fearful if they experience keener temptations from the temptations from the devil after their conversion or baptism than before—even if persecution should be their lot. Magnificat

And then there’s this: Forty days is not to be taken literally. It’s the regular Hebrew phrase for a considerable period of time. Moses was said to be on the mountain with God for forty days.

And it was Satan that tempted Jesus.. The word Satan in Hebrew means adversary.

The other title for Satan is the Devil: the word comes from the Greek diabolos, which literally means a slanderer. It’s a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man (adversary) to the thought of one who maliciously and deliberately slanders man in the presence of God.

In the New Testament, we learn that it is the Devil or Satan human disease and suffering. It is the devil who seduces Judas. It is the devil who is destined for the final destruction.

And I wrote this many years ago. . . .

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and to fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.

And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too!

Mark finishes with two vivid touches.

First. The beasts were his companions. In the desert there roamed the leopard, the bear, the wild boar and the jackal. This is usually taken to be a vivid detail of the grim terror of the scene. But perhaps here not so. Perhaps it is meant that the beasts were Jesus’ friends. Remember, Francis of Assisi befriended animals as well.

Second. The angels were helping him. There are ever divine reinforcements in the hour of trial. Jesus was not left alone—and neither are we.

And then Mark adds two verses. . .  Mark 1:14,15

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Barclay gives a brief outline of the content of the “Good News ” (the Gospel.)

1) It is the good news of truth.

Job: “O that I knew where I might find him.”

Marcus Aurelius said that the soul can see but dimly and the word he uses in Greek is for seeing through water.

2) It is good news of peace.

The penalty of being a human person is to have a split personality—beast and angel strangely intermingled. Schopenhauer, the gloomy philosopher was found wandering. He was asked, “Who are you?” “I wish you could tell me,” he answered.

3) It is the good news of promise.

It’s true that men had often thought of rather of God threats than of God of promises. Isn’t it so that non-Christian religions think of a demanding God while on Christianity tells of a God more ready to give than we are to ask?

4) It is a good news of immortality.

To the pagan, life was the road to death; man was characteristically a dying man, but Jesus came with good news that we are on the way to life rather than death.

5.) It is good news of salvation.

That salvation is not merely a negative thing; it is also positive. It is not simply liberation from penalty and escape from past sin; it is the power to live life victoriously and to conquer sin. The message of Jesus is good news indeed.

6) There is the word repent.

The Greek word metanoia literally means change of mind. We are very apt to confuse sorrow for the consequences of sin and sorrow for sin. Many a person is desperately sorry because he has made a mess that he has got himself into, if he could be reasonably sure he could escape the consequences, he would do the same thing again. It’s not the sin he hate, it’s the consequences.

Real repentance means that a man has come, to hate the son itself.

7) And finally, there is the word Believe.

“Believe,” says Jesus. “in the good news.”

To believe in the good news simply means to take Jesus at his word. To believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about. To believe that God so loves the world that he will make any sacrifice to bring us back to himself. To believe that what sounds too good to be true is really true.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eagles’ Wings.  Click here.  It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.”  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Mark / Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 21-26.

The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we be faithful too!

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The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ March 5th, 2017

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.

He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means to test.

One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac?  God was testing him, not tempting him!

So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.

We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles.  It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation.”  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him ~ testing his mettle ~ for his mission.

Then there are these other points to take note .  .  .  .

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12).  Barclay suggests to us that we do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights that that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul.  The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This is an inner struggle.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we almost see the devil.

(Pope Francis in the meditation on today’s gospel in the Magnificat liturgical magazine was saying that Christian life is a battle. And then cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, “Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century. And must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.”)

Three, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Four, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.

Five, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness.  No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.

We must always approach this story with unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. And that is what I’ve always done in the following presentation written many a year ago .  .  .

THIS IS A STORY about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bre

 

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was:

To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son.  But that was out of the question.

The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.

He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would COERCE others into being good.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.

And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eales’ Wings.  Click here.  It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.”  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 1 revised edition                              Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 62 -66.

The Fidelity of Jesus

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The First Sunday of Lent ~ The Fidelity of Jesus (February 22, 2015)

(All the Scripture texts for this Mass can be found at the link that follows.  After you’ve looked at this site,  to get back to this page,  at the top Left corner of your computer screen look for the tiny arrow ( <) pointing left. Click on it.  Here’s the link for the Mass readings: Click here.

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation. In Mark’s Gospel, the author condenses the story to two sentences, beginning with the fascinating line, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert . . .tempted by Satan.

Let’s begin with a couple of qualifications.  First, I was God’s idea.  Jesus was driven out there, Mark says. Mmmm.  William Barclay in his commentary on sacred scripture tell us that the purpose for this “was for a testing time.” Temptations are not sent to make us fall, but to strengthen our nerve and our will.  They are not meant for our ruin but for our good.

Second,  “forty days” is not meant to be taken literally.  Moses was on the mountain forty days; the Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years.  This is just a Hebrew phrase meaning “a considerable a mount of time.”

Third, the word Satan in Hebrew simply means advesary. In the book of Job, Satan is one of the sons of God (Job 1:6).  And, of course, the other title of Satan is the devil from the Greek diabolos, which literally means slanderer.  Through their captivity to the Persians, they learned something: there are two powers ~ one of darkness and light.  Thus, in this world, there is God and God’s adversary.   Satan becomes in essence everything that is against God.  (Barclay Gospel of Mark pp.21-23.)

And so, with this as background, I’d like to elaborate on the story from my imagination here . . . .

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements ~blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we ~ like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

You see, dear friends, in this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer is: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own son.  But that was out of the question.  The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.  He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would coerce others into being good ~ church leaders, or any one else in authority.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~ the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.  And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This ~ is the Jesus I know and love!

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here.  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

William Barclay: the Gospel of Mark Revised Edition / The Daily Study Bible Series  / The Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fidelity of Jesus

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The First Sunday of Lent ~ The Fidelity of Jesus (March 9, 2014)

(All the Scripture texts for this Mass can be found at the link that follows.  After you’ve looked at this site,  to get back to this page,  at the top Left corner of your computer screen look for the tiny arrow ( <) pointing left. Click on it.  Here’s the link for the Mass readings:  (Click here.)

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements ~blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

 

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we ~ like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

You see, dear friends, in this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer is: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own son.  But that was out of the question.  The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.  He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would coerce others into being good ~ church leaders, or any one else in authority.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted–the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.  And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This ~ is the Jesus I know and love!

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here.  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fidelity of Jesus

IMG_0982

The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus

(All the Scripture texts for this Mass can be found at the link that follows.  After you’ve looked at this site,  to get back to this page,  at the top Left corner of your computer screen look for the tiny arrow ( <) pointing left. Click on it.  Here’s the link for the Mass readings:  (Click here.)

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own son.  But that was out of the question.  The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.  He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would coerce others into being good.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted–the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.  And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here.  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Temptation of Christ

img_09771 christ in the desert monastery / ubiquiu, nm / palm sunday 2008 / (c) bob traupman.  all rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Still in Lake Charles, LA but on my way home today.

Dear Friends,

Lake Charles is just off of I-10 so I visited  Father Don exactly a year ago on my way to that other kind of wilderness that I much prefer – the desert.   I felt beckoned to the wilderness then too, but for a different reason. I was on my way to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico to also make a retreat, to listen to the silence, to make a pilgrimage, applying my intense prayer for America, mile upon mile, out on I-10 and back on the old Route 66.  Shivvy went with me and he sure enjoyed the journey.  He was even a guest at the Grand Lodge on the very edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

My destination was the Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monastery thirteen miles out into a desert canyon on a potholed road near Abuquiu, NM.  I don’t know how they built this magnificent southwest edifice out there.  There are twenty monks who sing the full office every day.  I was there for Palm Sunday and gained a new wonderful friend there, Mother Ben()dicta.  She takes the “I” out of her email address as a reminder that “she must decrease.”

Being there was so awesome, so beautiful in its starkness, so expansive.  My spirit soared from canyon wall to canyon wall.  And again it was so silent.

I had a night of agony then.  My soul felt tormented, much like Jesus in his forty- day desert experience.

So, let’s reflect on the important message of Jesus’ desert experience:

Matthew says: “At that time, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.” If you have a moment, read the full text: (Matthew 4:1 – 11.)

Lent always has us enter the desert with Jesus.

I journey to the desert last year at this time to pray for the transformation of our country.

Personal renewal and transformation always begins in the desert
– the hard places of our lives, the  crisis moments
— suffering, illness , worrying about losing one’s job or home.

In those vast and empty spaces of our soul,
we are confronted with the possibilities we have, the choices that lie ahead  of us:
We can choose life or death – good or evil
– self-centered choices or choices that consider the good of others too.

Jesus went into the wilderness to prepare for his mission.
He spent the time in profound prayer and fasting.

In all the harshness of the desert and its many harsh and cacophonous voices,
he noticed a Soft Voice within.
He began to trust, to train himself to hear and heed every single word.
This was the soft voice of his Father in heaven.

Jesus’ life was a life in union with his Father.
He was obedient – even unto death, death on a Cross. (Philippiians 2: 1-11.)
To be obedient is simply to pay attention to. To listen.

We’re all obedient to something.
Many of us, unfortunately, are obedient to money.
We pay attention to how to get it.  And what it can buy for us.
We obey the messages that prompt us to go out and buy the latest stuff.

Jesus chose from moment to moment to pay attention to what the Soft and gentle Voice
of his Father who loved him and whom he loved with all his heart. He responded to the guidance of that Voice because he knew that Voice saw the big picture while he was on the ground.

Jesus was fully human and had to shape and form his mind and will
just like the rest of us. As he grew, a young man about age 30, he discovered, the same way the rest of us do, that he had certain gifts and powers.

And like, the rest of us, he was tempted. God had given him – and us – a free will.
He was free to choose to use those gifts and powers for good or for ill.
And like, the rest of us, he was tempted.

Matthew reports three powerful temptations for this powerful man.
And note this:  These were REAL temptations.
Jesus was free to choose.

1.) He could choose to become arrogant and obey only his own voice.  He could choose to do it MY WAY, as so many of us try to do.  But he chose to rely on “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

2.) He could choose to get people to follow him by making a dramatic show of his
power, thereby twisting and distorting the powers God gave him.   He could make his “gig” a traveling medicine show.

3.) He could choose to succumb to the temptation to take the power trip that many of us are on, including some priests and bishops. Like so many of those who get the taste of power he could “get off” on building his own kingdom.  Instead he chose  to be the servant of all.

This story tells us that Jesus was tempted to worship the d(evil).
To use his power for his own ends rather than his Father’s will.
And this is what he came to understand:

To understand that his Father’s will is to lift up and care
for every single one of his children on this planet.
Jesus saw himself as brother to all of the human family.
He is one of us and with us.  He knows what it’s like to be human,
with all its difficulties and problems, even what it was like to have powerful temptations.

The desert experience did that for him.  And through fasting, he learned to control his body / emotions / intellect / will   (the four dimensions of the human person) so that he could carry that out.

In the desert, Jesus made his decision.
He chose very simply to be in union with the Father and to be led from moment to moment by God’s Holy Spirit. He chose – not to be successful, but to be faithful.
Faithful to the Father’s will — one day at a time — to the end.  No matter what.

And what did the Father want for him?
Simply to let the world know that God loves each one of us with an everlasting love. That’s all.

To be faithful to Love, Jesus understood that the Father wanted him
to do nothing but love to the very end.

He chose even to love his enemies, even those of his own religion, the hypocrites who had him killed.
And the heart of his teaching is that we do the same.

To be a follower of Jesus begins at the Cross.  To love our enemies.
To do good to those who persecute us.
To refuse to pass on even more hatred and violence.
To be at peace with all.

Know this: We will not be admitted to the kingdom of God;
that is, we will not experience peace until we are reconciled with every single person in our life.

That is a tall order.  But that is what we must do if we are to call ourselves a follower of
Jesus.

And it can be done. That is why we need a time of repentance and transformation and renewal.

The time is at hand to enter the desert of our heart.
To purify and cleanse our own hearts and souls of  hatred and violence of
tongue and heart toward our spouse, our children, our neighbor, our fellow employees,
for the sake of the cleansing and purification of our country.

Lord Jesus, help us understand the profound message of the desert.
Help us understand that hard times are opportunities for us to shape and form our life  in the service of Love.

Help us understand that temptations are positive things:
They help shape our character.

O God of our understanding, help us to be persons of integrity, who are on the outside what we are on the inside.
Help us, like Jesus, to learn more and more to rely on You for guidance in our every decision.

Have mercy on us, O God.
Give us the grace and the will to change the corruption that pervades our land.
Help us to have the courage to face our own demons and to change within ourselves
whatever is necessary

May we stand in peace and joy and love in the knowledge that we have done our best to be in union with You throughout our life —  the One who cares for and loves every person who has ever lived.

Give each of us in this time of repentance and transformation
the courage to look into ourselves to see and to change
whatever is not of love,
whatever is not of being honest and true to ourselves — no matter what the cost.

Character and integrity is the issue.
Life-long service to God and humanity is the issue.
For those the president or mayor of our town.
Or for you.  Or me.

Now this is the Jesus I know and love.

Bob Traupman

priest / writer