2nd Sunday in Lent Reflection
There is a pattern that we find in the life of Jesus that unfolds on the high places, those places where God was sought and the places of encounter. These high places are however also the places of the great temptation of power, prestige and popularity. The desert fathers and mothers knew all too well that when we seek the good, evil also pays attention.
It is from the pinnacle of God’s temple in Jerusalem that Jesus is presented with the temptation of power and prestige to reign as earthly king and divine despot. There is also the promise here that this temptation will continue looking for and finding opportunities.
It is at Nazareth that Jesus rejects the call to become the local saviour with the praise of a separated and superior chosen people who, being rejected, turn on him attempting to throw him from the cliff.
It is on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem that Jesus is faced with the temptation to bypass the coming ordeal and suffering. Peter also demanded that Jesus turn away from this suffering immediately after Jesus proclaimed him as the rock of the church. The first Pope and the rock of the church receives the greatest rebuke within Scripture, “get behind me Satan”. It is on the same Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem that Jesus is offered the opportunity to take control by earthly power as the same man Peter reaches for the sword. Jesus rejects this way.
Jesus Shows us the Way
Even in the high place of the Transfiguration, there is the temptation to clasp and hold on to the safety of the glory of God, but as Paul reminds us, Jesus did not count equality with God thing to be grasped.
These were the temptations of Jesus the Christ who is our model and exemplar. These were the temptations of power and prestige that Jesus experienced at every turn; from friends to foes, from loved ones and doubters, from family and disciples. These are also our temptations in the high places. These are the temptations that we find within our leaders of today and within that very Church established by Christ on the rock that is Peter.
Jesus suffered these temptations because he was truly human with all our deep human desires and fears. Jesus has shown us the way that rejects popularity, power and prestige. If Jesus was not truly tempted as we are, the temptations are but a mirage and of no value to us.
The opportunities and the temptations that face us now as suffering and fragmented church will also follow the pattern that enfolds in the life of Jesus the Christ. Yes, it is a time for conversion and penance, but is also an opportunity for renewal, transformation so that we may more truly reflect the universal Christ who is embodied in the man Jesus. This is the reflection that will always confront the powerful for their injustice and hypocrisy.
Jesus moved from the high places of popularity, power and prestige to journey with those who are oppressed in the shadow of the abuse of power.
It is ultimately the transforming power of love as it is raised upon across on the high place of religious and political expediency, that the final temptation is overcome. This is where we find the glory of the final transformation in the resurrection.
To listen to Jesus we are called to follow the way of Jesus who rejects absolutely the way of popularity, power and prestige. Jesus rejects the call to moral superiority that searches for scapegoats and sacralises violence, domination and superiority.
A Distortion of Truth
The ongoing divinisation and enthronement of our exclusive, male hierarchical priesthood claims to reflect the reality of God and his son Jesus, In Persona Christi Capitis. This concept of a totally male God who raises only men to the dignity and power of the priesthood distorts not only the nature of priesthood as one of service but also distorts the nature of the eternal and universal Christ who is the model and exemplar of every man and woman created in the image and likeness of God.
It is here the very beginning of things, at the Genesis of who we see God to be that we find the dark roots of the abuse of power, the disease of domination that hides behind the curtain of the holy Tabernacle.
The new cleansing of the temple is needed, but this is not cleansing of exclusion and contraction, it is a cleansing of our intentions, human customs, doctrines and laws that belittle and pollute the glory and the light of Christ that shines out in all creation so as to empower the way of domination. The way of Jesus was always the path of inclusion, looking especially to those rejected and excluded by the privileged and the powerful.
The path ahead of us will call for suffering as it did also for Jesus. The renunciation of our reserved, privileged places at the high table will not be an easy path and for many it may be an intolerable sacrifice. The temptation of the high places is always with us and it is only by choosing solidarity with those who are excluded and disempowered in the footsteps of Jesus that we find God’s presence. This is the way of vulnerable, expansive, inclusive and redemptive love.