I am just back from an extended car trip with my family. We drove about 4,000 km in total and many times had to find our way around an unfamiliar territory.
Several years ago, we bought ourselves one of the newest toys on the market called a Global Positioning System or GPS for short. This technology has become so accepted that many new cars have it included, and most smart phones come equipped with GPS functions.
Over these past few years, I have learned at least three lessons about life from my GPS’s:
· If the GPS is going to help me, I have to turn it on;
· I am the one that needs to tell the GPS where it is I want to go to;
· And because I often make mistakes, the GPS has taught me that there is always more than one way to get to where it is I want to go. Sometimes the directions need to be recalculated
What makes a GPS work is the software installed within it that contains the maps needed to plot a course for the trip. Any GPS it turns out is only as good as the maps it uses and not all Global Positioning Systems are created equal. Some are simply better at getting you to your destination than others.
It occurred to me that the GPS is a potentially powerful metaphor. Lent is an opportunity to take some time to go to a quiet place and ask ourselves some important questions about the directions our life is taking.
· Where is it that I want to go with my life?
· What maps, am I following?
· Is it time to re-calculate the directions?
What would we need to change if we truly made Christ the centre of our lives, in a sense we let God become our GPS?
The gospel today talks about three possible alternatives we might be tempted to make the centre of our lives instead of God.
This weekend’s gospel begins right after the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordon. Notice how Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit.
Pope Benedict, when reflecting on this passage shared that in the earthly life of Jesus, [He] always seeks moments of solitude in order to pray to his Father and to remain in intimate communion, in intimate solitude with him, in an exclusive communion with him, and then to return to the people. (BENEDICT XVI GENERAL AUDIENCE Wednesday, 22 February 2012)
We all need these quiet times to remain connected with our God. This journey into the desert is a time of preparation for Christ and for us.
It is during this period of solitude and fasting that Christ encounters the “evil one.” The devil is not depicted in scripture as some crazed fallen angel with a pitch fork and ugly scales.
In this passage, he sounds more like a well-dressed salesperson quietly testing which MAPS Jesus will choose for his internal GPS to follow in his ministry.
The three temptations in this reading are metaphors. Theologians, scripture scholars and preachers have many different understandings of this passage.
I am partial to the interpretation offered by Fr. Richard Rohr and others who highlight that these three tests are symbolic of the three temptations we all face as human beings. Jesus does not run from this encounter with the clever devil. He faces the tests and makes a decision to follow the route his Father has asked him to take.
Father Richard summarizes the three tests in the desert in the following ways:
The First Temptation- To make ourselves feel relevant.
The first temptation of Christ was to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). Sounds good, but this is likely our need to be immediately impressive and effective, successful, relevant, and make things happen right now. It is our natural desire to look good.
The Second Temptation- Being Pride filled in the name of God.
The second temptation of Jesus is another one that all of us must face. Satan takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple, symbolizing the top of the religious world itself, and tells him to play “righteousness games” with God. “Throw yourself off and He’ll catch you” (Matthew 4:6). …this second temptation is to think of yourself as saved, superior to others, the moral elite on the side of God and religion, and to quote arguable scriptures for your own purpose—being against God in the name of God.
The Third Temptation- Adopting the False God of Power
The third human temptation is the need for control, importance, and power. The devil tells Jesus to bow down before the power systems of this world: “All of these I will give to you” (Matthew 4:8). Make these into your actual belief and security system. Formal atheism is rare, but this kind of practical daily atheism is almost the norm. Adapted from Radical Grace
Lent is a period of 40 days where we can take the opportunity to do the hard work of self-reflection. It turns out that being quiet and asking ourselves some hard questions is a much more difficult type of fasting than simply giving up our favorite coffee or video game.
With God’s help, we may need to ask ourselves if we are trying so hard to be perfect, relevant and important, that we are missing the opportunity to be in service to others.
Perhaps we have given into the temptation to hold up our faith in front of others as some kind of trophy that we have earned that somehow makes us better than those that struggle. In doing so we may be missing the call to be compassionate.
Finally, the most difficult question because this third test is the most difficult. Have we decided, consciously or unconsciously to make the secular world the dominant MAP of our internal GPS?
Are we spending our time pursuing riches and pleasures that will more than likely have us arrive at a destination only to ask – “Is this all there is?”
Lent is a time to examine where we are going with our lives. We are called to be brutally honest with ourselves and our God about who we are and what we are doing with this gift of life.
Lent is an opportunity to admit that it might be time to pick a new destination and then to let God recalculate the directions.
When we choose to take Jesus up on his offer in the next verse of Mathew’s gospel, which is to “come follow him”, then we are committing to make Jesus our primary GPS.
When we do this then “be aware” that the roads Jesus may ask you to travel will not always be easy, but they will be ones that will allow you to go in peace and to use your life to glorify the Lord.