Scripture references: Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; and Luke 4:1-13
Lent begins tomorrow on February 10th; which is Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church. For the next forty days, we will either fast from food or some other item in our lives. We will have Lenten services throughout the season. We will have Lenten readings to study during these days.
However, I always contend that Lent is a time of pause and reflection. I believe it’s time for us to “fast” from the bullshit that we endure in our lives. The bullshit that keeps us from living Divinely authentic lives.
Tonight’s Scriptural references point to a very familiar Gospel story: Jesus’s 40-day sojourn in the wilderness. We all know the story: after being baptized in the Jordan River by John (the Baptist), Jesus was driven out into wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil, yet Jesus rebuffed the devil with Scripture, and then was tended to by angels. We read this tale all the time in church.
However, I want to take a different look at this story. I’m currently reading, Mystic Christianity Or, The Inner Teachings of the Master by William Walker Atkinson, which he wrote in 1907-08. This book portrays Jesus as a Master steeped in the Mystical Occult School of his time; studying in Egypt and Asia amongst the mystic masters including the Essenes. This Jesus is a far cry from the one commonly portrayed in Scripture. Atkinson contends that Jesus came face to face with his own soul. Jesus had to do some self-reflection to prove his worthiness of being a Master.
If Atkinson’s argument is true, then we’re given a Jesus who knew what he could do with his power. Jesus could have turned the stones to bread. Also, Jesus could have taken on the mantle of Israel’s messiah and put his powers to overthrowing Rome and creating a new dynasty which he could rule from Jerusalem. Jesus could have done it with his powers. However Jesus didn’t. Jesus resisted the temptations of power and twisting nature to his own pleasure; he passed the test. If Jesus was a Master as Atkinson contends, then Jesus was worthy of the title by his passing the test.
How about us? Are we going to have the courage to face our own souls during the next 40 days in our own wildernesses? What are we going to do with the powers God gave us? Will we succumb to the temptations of life: fame, fortune, wealth, etc? Will we try to force nature to conform to our pleasures? Or, will we go past all that and take an honest look at ourselves and learn from such introspection? Will we too become “masters” of our souls and be like Jesus?
Forty days and forty nights: seems like a long time. However, what we do during this Lenten season can very well impact us for a lifetime.