Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Lent - the buried Treasure

One of the difficulties of writing as a discipline, is running dry. But this is in itself perhaps the Essential teaching of the Lenten season. The stripping away of Everything, to reveal that which we cannot imagine, buried as it is under the life we have built for ourselves.

One of the difficulties for us in understanding Christ is that we understand him to be both fully human and also fully divine, and we understand neither. Our perception of what it is to be fully human is distorted by so much of our own life stories, the people amongst whom we live and have been brought up and Sin. We fail to understand that we see 'human' as through a glass darkly, so when we think of Jesus in his humanity, we tend to interpret him poorly and when he does or says something which seems to us extraordinary, we assume he must as it were have switched over to Divine power, say in the stilling of the sea, or the many healings, or indeed perhaps in his Temptations in the wilderness.

 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

It is all too easy to understand Jesus' passing the test of the temptations either humanly but erroneously, or divinely. So we may think that Jesus in his humanity acts as we would in his temptation. He heroically summons up something within himself, as if it was the very last shred of his strength. Or we allow that after 40 days, humanly speaking there is no strength and thus he switches on the Superhero (Divine) Jesus to deal with Satan. Much preaching on the temptations seems to come across in this 'Jesus, the superhero' vein, be it human or Divine.

But this is to misunderstand both the humanity of Jesus and his Divinity, because it misunderstands what is human (and thus have little conception of what is 'the Image of God' - our Clue to  Divinity).

Jesus in the Desert is stripped back til in and of himself he has nothing
All he has is the Gift of the truly human life, the life which is pure Act, pure response to God's call. This testing comes at the start of his ministry to ensure that in his life he is Pure Life. Truly Human. That the identity which he has just Heard at his Baptism is fully revealed. 

Lent is a time of stripping back, and it feels dry and empty. the life we have chosen for ourselves seems so Good and Full - why Deny ourselves?? And so very often we do not stick with it well or long. The truth is that our lives are given to us as one long Lent, in which the lives we have built for ourselves might be stripped away to reveal at base what we are, not the life we made, but the Life that is Gift - the Life that is Response to God, the Life that Knows its true Home.

A friend of mine has in a sense made a Lenten journey over several years. Everything has been stripped away and she speaks of a sense of having Lost everything, but then . . . wonder of wonders a Vocation. She is perturbed. How can this be, given all that I have gone through?? Yet is it all this strange? For how can we hear clearly the call of the Father, how can we respond to that Voice whilst our lives are so full of what we have made for ourselves. The desert is a place of often painful stripping away of what seems like everything - but then the everything is revealed for what it is, a thing of horror - a lie, a false life. Following the stripping away the buried Life of pure response to God is revealed. Vocation.

So it is with Jesus. When all is stripped away - what he is at base is revealed, the Obedient Human.

True human - under all the falsity - 'This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond - Is immortal diamond'

May we do Lent, and do it thoroughly

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