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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.

imagesHe 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.

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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.

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What else could we transform…

When we give of ourselves, and we give of ourselves in the Spirit, in Love.

Why the Cross?



This gospel comes to my mind when I fish.  “Please Lord, tell me what fly to use, and where to cast!”  I have yet to hear a definitive answer.

Me n Big Brown 2013

Clearly though, this is not about how to fish; the readings, all three, are about a calling.

But NOT about simply a call to serve the Lord as as religious, or in a specific service.  It is a calling that is much more profound and deeper.

The calling is to find a deeper and more profound way of life.

It is a calling to experience SALVATION!!!

Salvation is the freedom to be those children of God, which we are created to be.

Salvation is the freedom to be engaged and connected with others, and have meaningful relationships, to build community.

Salvation is the freedom to make positive, good choices that help others.

Yet, we let our mistakes hold us back.  We let our egos and arrogance keep us from trying new ways.   We let our fears keep us from growing.

I have seen it in my own life, I have heard it in many others:  “Oh, Father, I can’t do that!  I am not worthy.”      “No, I know what I need, and this is the way I am going to do it, and I can do it all by myself!”  Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_son  “What I did in my past is unforgivable, I am so ashamed.”

These, and the similar phrases and thoughts, are all too common and in a sense antithetical to Jesus Christ.

They deny the whole meaning of the birth, life, death and resurrection which is all about our salvation; which are about God’s infinite love and mercy for every human person that has ever been, is now and ever shall be!

Look at Isaiah, thinking himself unworthy, and God changed that.

Paul, the great persecutor of the church, experiences conversion to becomes its greatest promoter.

Peter, the man who thought he knew how to fish, yet caught nada.  At least is willing to listen, and catches more than he could have ever imagined.

Where are we?

Jesus Christ comes to save us; really not from sin, but from ourselves.  Save us from these small minds, those attitudes that cripple us in life and end up crippling others too.

He has given us the way to be transformed in this life.  He has given us the way to be better connected to others.  He has given us the way to be free.

We can sit and complain about this and that; be mad at the world, the church, the country, our family because they will not do what we think they need to do…or   We can be humble and be open to different ways. humus-hands1 We can let go of our need to control, our egos, and fish from the other side and actually find joy.





We can play the false humility role, we can play the victim our whole lives and say I am not worthy, poor me, and spread misery

20121119-204117.jpgor we can accept the reality that we all are children of God, worthy of love and spread Joy.






We can let our past mistakes dominate us and control us, and shame us into submission…or we can accept the forgiveness and mercy of the Cross and experience a future of life.


This is the calling of Jesus Christ.  This is the will of God, that we experience that Joy, that Life, Salvation.
What side of the boat are we fishing from?


It was kind of one of those DUHHHHH moments more me….!

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