Recently a friend and I argued over this gospel. We were talking about “mortifying” the body through sacrifice. Mortifying is a very loaded term, meaning in essence, punish or “kill” the body so that it no longer tempts or causes problems.
He felt that Jesus needed to mortify his human side.
I disagreed heartily. It is theologically wrong. There is the simple line that changes everything. It can change even how we live and experience God, and experience ourselves in the world.
Notice, it says Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is not this simple pretty little dove thing. It is the Love of God personified. God’s love is powerful, effective, empowering. Jesus filled with the Divine Love goes to fast. Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, enters the wilderness Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit endures.
He does not go to punish himself, not to subdue his “passions”, or mortify his body. He goes as an expression of love.
And it is because of Love that he resists the temptations, not because he got all macho through fasting…but through LOVE.
Love, that grace that is about self-giving. Love that desire to see the good in others. Love that power, that Freedom, to want to give of ourselves for the good of others, and to want to accept the good they give for us.
LOVE, the Holy Spirit. Love the nature of God.
This not just something Jesus experienced alone, no. This is the revelation of the human experience. We are creatures of Love, we are creatures for Love. We are called to live this same Spirit of Love, and experience the same results.
Love rejects the falsity of identifying ourselves with power, material, with our own egos.
So, think about how much suffering is caused by this.
How many marriages, families, friendships, communities are fractured because people are concerned for more for themselves.
How many people live in poverty, hunger; sit isolated in homes, prisons, hospitals because others will not give up time, money or effort to help.
How many lives are prematurely extinguished because we don’t want to put for the effort to care for an elderly person, a sick person, an unborn person.
How many remain frozen, depressed, confused, scared, because they will not let go of what they think makes them important.
The Spirit and the Christ reminds us that our identity, first and foremost, is rooted in that we are children of the Father, loved by God beyond all comprehension.
Love is to become the force by which we do all, including giving of ourselves for others, and making those sacrifices. Sacrifices that are good for others.
All true wives and husbands know this: this the unbreakable bond by which each gives of themselves for the others.
All good parents know this when the put aside their own desires and wants, for their children.
All religious know this when they give up from their lives for the good of their community, the good of their parish.
Sacrifice is not about self-punishment or macho discipline, or other ego related issues. It is the outward sign of the inner reality of love.
Each Eucharist we celebrate this sacramental love, the sacramental sacrifice that is made present through the bread and wine that become the sacrificed body and blood of the Son of God.
Imagine how much more content, harmonious, happy, joyful the people of this world could be, if we could but live this out. Instead of whining, hungry people could be fed. Instead of selfish anger, children could be well educated. Instead of indifference, a cleaner world could be enjoyed by all. Instead of fear, political power can be shared.
Marriages could be repaired; abuse of children could be prevented. I dare say violence decreased: lonely people in nursing homes and prisons would be visited. People at the end of physical life would be cared for.
What else could we transform…
When we give of ourselves, and we give of ourselves in the Spirit, in Love.