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Reflections on the Sunday readings

Dealing with distractions

Deuteronomy 26:1-11  •  Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16  •  Romans 10:8b-13  •  Luke 4:1-13

 

In the midst of life, Lent offers a chance to recollect oneself, identifying and eschewing the many distractions of life. Jesus sets the example, going away alone to consider his baptism, to think about his vocation, to pray, to fast, and ultimately in all of these, to find himself in relationship with a God he calls abba or daddy. The good news here is that Jesus himself got distracted and gives us a guide of what to do about it. First, he didn't get into any sort of back and forth argument within himself. Instead, he finds a principle, in these cases, scripture passages, that have formed him, and rests his case and his choice on them. Second, he does not give up, but continues to pray as the distractions continue.

 

These distractions are interesting. The first involves the physical. Perhaps many of us can identify here, with appetites that may keep us from deeper living. They may seem to satisfy in the moment, but ultimately lead one away from what one meant to focus on. Jesus is having none of it, pointing out through scripture that life is more than food.

 

The second temptation involves power. Jesus is distracted by imagining all the ways in which he could become a prestigious leader, with great authority and deference shown, wherever he goes. He declares that none of these things matter to him, and that in the alternative he will spend his life worshipping, honoring, and doing the will of God.

 

The third temptation involves a misconstrual of God. Jesus considers the idea that God will be responsible for him, literally catching him when he falls, so that he can be carefree, leaving it all to God. He decides that he will not be so foolish, but will be responsible for himself.

 

Against all these distractions, Jesus is able to define himself and who he will be. Perhaps distractions should be welcomed as opportunities to consider one's position, to assert oneself and one's own direction. And perhaps in one's prayers, if one stays with them, one can occasionally sense the presence of angels coming to bless the efforts to choose life in all its difficulties and all its fullness.  

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