Desires, Desires, and more Desires
I’ve always thought that desires make the world go around and that’s basically a very good thing. Desire is something God put in us “when we were knit together in our mother’s womb.” We’re born with desires and they can be a powerful impetus for good in our lives.
This First Sunday of Lent addresses the very real problems that can arise when our desires become distorted in some way. I say distorted because, as far as our desires go, they are always directed toward an end that we think is good and pleasant. Even a bad guy who does something deemed evil is acting toward a perceived good. No one sets out to do “evil,” but instead to do something in their own interest and good.
I’m talking about “desire” because that is a keyword in our Genesis reading today:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was to be desired (chamad) to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
We always desire something we think will be good for us, not evil, but that which we desire doesn’t always lead to a happy outcome or freedom. Sometimes our “good” desires foster rivalry and division. Interesting, in the Ten Commandments, the same word is used in the “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods, wife, etc.” is the same word in Hebrew (chamad).
Bottom line, we need to be true to ourselves and the God who brought us into being. Because some of the good things we desire might not be good for us, we need discernment or the help of God to find our way. This is not easy because we are subject to temptation. Just as Satan (representing the angels that rebelled against God) tempted Adam and Eve with something good (to be like God, knowing good and evil), so we can be tempted as well. Our temptations don’t come from slithery creatures, but from the crowd. We like the approval of others. We like what others have. We will do violence, if necessary to have it, him, or her. We will go to war, if we need to, to protect our “interests” or desires. Of course, in the desire to be free, we end up creating so much suffering and in endless bondage.
Jesus came to free us from the bondage of our distorted desires. We look at Jesus in his temptations:
He was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” . . . the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,” and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone’ . . . Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
What would we do if we were tempted like Jesus, instead of by the devil, but the crowd yelling “Go ahead, make some bread for you and us, we will protect you, nothing will hurt you, we’ll make you famous and powerful.” Wanting what they want for me I would probably stuff myself, check with my insurance guy to see if I was covered for falls, and grab all the power I could get. But, by not doing what I was called to do, I’d find myself in chains.
I am weak, but Thou art strong. I need Jesus to find equilibrium amid all the temptations, desires, supposedly for my own good, all around me. I need Lent, a new springtime in my life, where I can get back on the track of my baptismal call.
Remember the message last week on Mount Transfiguration: Listen to him! Then three days later ashes were placed on our heads as a sign of repentance- our willingness to change our thinking and actions and make them more congruent with Jesus’ way of living and looking at things. Lent is all about realizing Jesus’ tremendous love. Jesus refused to turn the stones into bread and relieve his hunger so he could identify with every person in this world who is hungry. Even though he had the Angels Insurance Plan which covered everything with no deductibles, Jesus didn’t jump from the pinnacle of the Temple so he could be one with all those in any emotional and physical distress. And Jesus, offered all the power and kingdoms of this world, refused to kneel before Satan so he could stand alongside the powerless people of this world who depend on him alone. Jesus did this to show his love for every person, especially the hungry, those suffering emotionally or physically, and those who have no power or status in this world. Jesus did it and with his help, so can we. This is our time to grow.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.