When Mao Zedong was supreme ruler of China from 1949-1976, he regularly sent young recruits for the Communist party on what was called the “Long March”– an 8,000 mile journey through some of the toughest parts of western China that Mao and his army took in 1935 to evade their enemies. That march made them into a strong fighting force that eventually conquered China. Mao believed young recruits would learn to be good Communists by retracing the way he and his soldiers went in 1935.
Lent is our “Long March.” For 40 days, we retrace the journey Jesus took to his death and resurrection. We begin in the Jordan Valley, where the gospels and the earliest accounts from the Acts of the Apostles say that Jesus began his ministry. He entered the Jordan River to be baptized by John; the heavens opened and God the Father declared: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Here’s the One I’m sending you, the Messiah, listen to him.The Jordan wilderness was one of the places the Jews looked for the Messiah to appear.
The Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. Then, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to begin the first steps of his journey and for 40 days Jesus was tempted by the devil.
He was tempted to be a Messiah of another kind. Live another life instead of the life God wants you to live, Satan says. In the desert Satan “offers Jesus another messianic way, far from God’s plan, because it passes through power, success, dominion and not through the total gift on the Cross. This is an alternative messianism of power, of success, not the messianism of gift and selfless love.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Lenten Reflection 2012)
Matthew’s gospel offers an interesting summary of Jesus’ temptations. “Turn these stones into bread,” Satan says. “You’re above the ordinary laws of life. You don’t have to get hungry or tired or sick or die like other human beings. You’re superman.” From a mountain, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. “Here’s political power,” Satan says. “You’re an ideal political candidate; they will fall at your feet. You can always be popular and they’ll flock to your side.” From the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, Satan says “Throw yourself down; you can have religious power. You can even tell God what to do.”
Aren’t we tempted like that too? We like to control things, to snap our fingers and have stones become bread; we like things to run smoothly and have the world on our side; we even like to control God. His great wish is “ his will be done, his kingdom come.” Our temptation is “my will, my kingdom come.”
The gospels say the temptations of Jesus lasted for 40 days. Then, according to Mark’s gospel:
“After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
Jesus followed John the Baptist and the way of the prophets. He went, not to Jerusalem the center of religious and political power, but to Galilee to proclaim the gospel of God to a people who “live in darkness and the shadow of death.” He taught and did great works, but his journey was not easy; it was still a wilderness where he faced again the temptations he faced in the desert. His temptations were not over after 40 days. They continued into Galilee and then in Jerusalem where he died on the Cross. He still got hungry and tired. He still was tested to give up his mission as Messiah. His journey wasn’t easy; it was a long march.
In Lent we make the Long March. But remember, it’s a Long March with Jesus. We go and live in his grace, as children of God.
The saints, our examples and guides, were tempted like Jesus in their lives too. Here’s St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, describing the temptations he faced not once, but often: “I was dry, distracted and tempted. I had to force myself to stay at prayer. I was tempted to gluttony and seized with hunger. I felt the cold more than usual and wanted some relief, and on that account I wanted to flee from prayer. By the grace of God, my spirit held out, but the violence and assaults kept coming both from my flesh and the devil.” (Spiritual Diary, December 10-13)
Jumapili ya Kwanza ya Kwaresima Matayo 4: 1-11
Padre Evans Fwamba Cp
Ingawa maandiko matakatifu yasema, Yesu alichugua ubinadam wetu akawa kama sisi kwa kila namna isipokuwa dhambi. Mara nyingi tunavutwa kumuona yuko tofauti na sisi. Tunamuona kama anayetenda miujiza, mwalimu wa uhakika, Bwana wa yasiyowezekana. Lakini tunapomuangalia Kristu jangwani tunamuona akiwa mchovu, mnyonge, na kuhangaika katika mazingira magumu na hatari. Tunajiuliza na kutafakari, je maisha yake yalikuwa hivi kwa kiasi kikubwa?Nasi pia wanadamu hapa duniani ni kama tuko jangwani. Tunapitia yale yote Yesu aliyoyapitia, vishawishi.
Tunatafakari jinsi Yesu alivyojaribiwa jangwani. Kwanza, tukifikiri juu ya maisha ya uhitaji aliyoyaishi, hasa katika utume wake. Watu walimletea matatizo na mahangaiko yao, tunamuona kipofu kando ya barabara akiomba kuponywa, mtu aliyepooza aliyeshushwa kutoka darini, mwanamke aliyebembeleza ili binti yake apone, na wagonjwa wengi waliokuja kwake kila wakati. Je Yesu Kristo alichoka kutenda mema? La hasha, hakuchoka kutenda mema. Nasi pia tusichoke kutenda yaliyomema.
Jaribio la kwanza la Yesu jangwani ni shetani anamshawishi abadili jiwe liwe mkate. Ni jaribio ambalo linataka Yesu atumie uwezo na nguvu zake kwa manufaa yake mwenyewe, ubinafsi. Lakini nguvu ya kufanya miujiza ni kwa ajili ya wengine na utukufu wa mungu si manufaa yake mwenyewe.
Nasi pia tunajaribiwa kutumia mamlaka, nguvu zetu kwa ajili ya manufaa yetu. Mfano Daudi anatumia mamlaka yake na kulala na mke wa mwenzake 2Sam 11:1-27, Binti ya Herodi anatumia vibaya kibaji chake cha kucheza kwa kutaka kichwa cha Yohane Mbatizaji Marko 6:14-29. Je zile nafasi na uwezo mungu ametujalia katika jamii tunazitumiaje? Na vipaji vyetu mbali mbali tunavitumia je?
Mtakatifu Paulo Wa Msalaba alijua kujaribiwa kwake ni katika maisha ya kawaida na kwenye sala, anasema alikuwa amekauka kiroho, kusumbuliwa na kujaribiwa ili aache kutafakari juu ya mateso ya kristu. Alijaribiwa kuwa mlafi na kupatwa na njaa, alipigwa na baridi sana na kutamani kutoroka sala. Lakini kwa neema ya mungu aliweza kustahimili hayo yote. Tunapokuwa na shida kwenye maisha yetu ya kawaida na sala zetu tunatoroka au tunaomba neema za mungu tustahimili?……..