Today FaithND is running a reflection I wrote on this Sunday’s Gospel, about Jesus’ forty days in the desert and the words of Scripture that he falls back on in his hour of temptation. As I worked on this piece, I was captured by the idea that the devil preys on Jesus’ deepest callings and twists them just enough to pervert the true meaning of the Scripture he cites:
Jesus came to be bread for the world—why not zap stones into manna? Why not feed all the starving in one fell swoop, multiply the miracle by a million, transform every pebble of the earth into food for the hungry?
Jesus came to rule over the world with justice and compassion—why not become king in an instant? Why not seize the glory of all the nations, watch all the citizens of the world bow in honor to him in a single second?
Jesus came to model complete trust in God—why not hurl himself down into the arms of the angels? Why not prove exactly how it looks to fling oneself into the unfailing care of the divine?
I wonder how my own callings are confronted by temptations that look good on the surface, but deep down are distortions of the truth.
Take the calling to be a parent, for example. I find myself inundated by images and ideas and advice and assumptions about what it means to be a good mother. I’m still so new at this gig, just a few short years into a lifelong vocation, that I often find myself wrapped in doubts, worrying whether I’m doing this right, wondering if there’s another (or better or easier or righter) way.
I’ve never thought to consider these temptations as evil – I tend to reserve the term for large-scale horror, violence and destruction – but I wonder whether the weaseling of worry, the twisting of fears around my deepest loves, the perversions that prey on my keenest sense of calling, are nothing less than the power of darkness at work in my own mind.
We can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, or the wrong thing for the right reasons, but can this be calling? My belief in a God of goodness, who calls us in love for love, who longs to bring about fullness of life for the world, whispers no.
Perhaps, like Jesus, I need the words of others to remind me, to strike at the heart of truth:
There is no real occasion for tumult, strain, conflict, anxiety, once we have reached the living conviction that God is All.
All takes place within God. God alone matters; God alone is.
Our spiritual life is God’s affair because whatever we may think to the contrary, it is really produced by God’s steady attraction and our humble and self-forgetful response to it.
It consists in being drawn, at God’s pace and in God’s way, to the place where God wants us to be.
– Evelyn Underhill, The Soul’s Delight