For the Journey

When Jesus is baptized, he publicly assumes his position or mission as the Beloved. We contemplate this scene and wonder whether we want to go with him. He is heading for his temptation by the devil to not be obedient to what he has heard. He remains faithful to his baptismal dignity and destiny. Throughout his life he will hear other calls and identities that will call him away from being the Savior.

At this point in the retreat we consider how we answer the universal human question, “How do I know who I am?” Our identities are fragile enough, and we wonder about and we hear various invitations to just how to answer this most important question. This is a week of considering and evaluating the strategies of the two main contestants in the battle for our souls’ identities. There is the Evil One and his minions in one army and there is Jesus peacefully inviting us.

We pray this week to understand how positively attractive the plan of the Evil One is to answer the question about our identity. First the Evil Spirit will attract us to solve the question by accumulating possessions that we will be able to point to and say, “There! I must be somebody, because I have all these material trophies.”

So we pray about how attracted we can be by those things that in themselves might be very good. Do we possess them or do they possess us? The rich young man was tied up by what he had, because those things told him and others who he was.

The next step the enemy of our human nature tries, after we still cannot peacefully answer the question by the amount of our goods, is to attain a position of importance by which we have other people telling us who we are. Prestige and power are so attractive, and the Evil One tempts Jesus and us as well to define ourselves by our titles and honors. The advance is toward greater and greater dependency on something outside ourselves to create a sense of worth and self. The third and most fatal trap of the Leader of Destruction is a radical stance of independence from God, a prideful appreciation of ourselves as our own cause and sustainer. We need not God but more things and people as testimonies to our undaunted spirit.

We turn then to the camp of Jesus and he who has heard from his Father exactly who he is, who invites us to listen to that same baptizing and confirming voice telling us that we too are the beloved of God. We have listened to the Tempter and his offerings; we spend time considering how attractive the invitation is to so believe who we are that we need not solve the question by having something outside us affirm ourselves — a spirit of simple openness, which Jesus called poverty of spirit. We know what things are, what they are for, and where they have come from.

We hear the freedom from and freedom for expressed when Jesus invites us to not be concerned about being humbled or even humiliated because our names and identities are given to us by the Creator.
Freedom from possessions and prestige allows us to walk the walk of the free Jesus, whose actions and style we are contemplating this week. He knew who he was and simply asks us these days to so accept ourselves as the beloved of God that imitating him becomes our way of expressing who we are. We live now not merely as our independent selves; Christ lives in and through us.

This week we face our own ways of being attracted by the tricks and trade of the Seducer. We also find our hearts and minds being drawn to the ways and wisdom of Jesus.

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