I Need Help (First Sunday of Lent)


“He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.” Susannah Heschel, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, now of blessed memory.

In today’s Gospel and readings I see so many parallels to where we are today. For those among us who have some yearning to “make America great again.” Well, that may sound nice, but I can never figure out what we might actually go back to that would be so great. Greatness, if you ask me, can never be returned to, greatness – if it is to be – is found only by going forward. For others who may long for a greatness built upon justice, unity, and equality, other things can be read into today’s readings by understanding the risk of temptation – and avoiding temptation.

Jesus has been in the desert a long time in today’s reading – even if we are at the beginning of our own Lenten journey.  Maybe he is hangry! No, I’m not trying to be funny. He has been sleeping in the wilderness without the benefit of a nice tent, cozy sleeping bag, a water filtration device, and energy bars. Think about what this means. Not exactly a comfortable retreat to “get away from it all.” Quite the opposite!

Me, I love the desert, but boy oh boy,  I have no desire to stay out there for 40 days and nights! Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. And then he meets satan, the satanas – which means the tempter or evil one in general. Now Jesus must be so tired and hungry. The evil one makes three pitches which all center on Jesus making a choice against God. Which, of course, Jesus cannot and will not do. The desert strips away what is unnecessary and that seems particularly clarified in Jesus’ case.

In the second reading we hear that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. Well, we must put ourselves in the mind of the hearers of those words from St. Paul. This was enormous and certainly very challenging. No distinction between Jew and Greek? If you are predisposed to dislike any one particular group, political, social, racial, ethnic, imagine being told that they are exactly like you. Also, St Paul adds, anyone who calls upon God will be saved. So wait – all of my herculean efforts to be close to God can be received by anyone who calls God’s name? That hardly seems fair!

And in our first reading we are reminded of the many gifts that God has given us through the memory of God’s leading of the Jewish people through the desert. We are to bow down before this God. Which would be the exact opposite of what satan proposes to Jesus.

So what does that have to do with today. If you are on social media at all, your feeds may be awash in postings speaking up for or speaking against Rep. Ilhan Omar D-MN.  I’m not here to defend or decry her, I’m just saying that she is the symbol of all time for our current divisions here in the desert known as the US political/cultural/social scene. Starved for more chaos and disunity, it’s like a gladiator ring of for or against. And we must make a bold choice and proclaim it on social media.

54434264_10156262257053553_8729010104105435136_nLest anyone think that I am even bordering on condoning Anti-Semitism, I am absolutely not – but I am saying that she is the poster child for division writ large. Everything from her Somalian birth, to her Muslim faith, her hijab, and her denunciation of certain Israeli policies have all but driven AOC to the margins of social media outrage.

Another thing that is further dividing us and causing people to fight it to the death in the barren social media landscape is this event. I won’t give many words to it other than this… I read it and thought of today’s Gospel when it was happening last week. Personally, I find it abhorrent bordering on blasphemous, but that’s just me. And if a pastor signed it too, that’s no different for me. Gross.

As a person who is easily driven to SMDO (social media driven outrage) all the ugly messes remind me of what today’s Gospel and readings have to offer us…

*God is in charge
*Everything comes from God
*We should be thanking and serving God
*That means accepting others
*Satan will tempt
*We need to respond like Christ

This teaching is hard, as another line of Scripture tells us – who can accept it?

Today I find myself pondering this…  I were Vladimir Putin, for example, I would use whatever I could to continue to sow dissent, chaos, confusion, and division. That is because I think Putin is satan. And yes I used the small s on purpose. Honestly, I loathe the thought of imagining everything on social media to be a tempting tidbit from the tempter, but honestly – I am beginning to wonder.

Here in the desert of Lent, I know I must turn away from that which would tempt me to respond. My responses, wether in agreement or disagreement are akin to me enjoying some stone based-nutrition turned into “goodness” or perhaps flinging myself from some precipice.

Every single time we find something that supports our rejection of another, turning away from another, demeaning another, and more – I wonder what kind of temptation this is and how we might turn to God for another answer. God is not to be tested, but rather God is to be trusted. That is easier said than done. And as I have posted numerous times on this blog, the words of Anne Lamott are the guidepost or waymarker.  ”

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

If we are to find unity in Christ and in one another, our time in the desert must stand for something other than constant outrage.  Given my Lenten theme of  “I need help” that I posted about on Ash Wednesday, I think I will start with this one. How can I not get caught in the webs of anger and division this Lent? I have no  clue, I just know that is a major temptation for me. If Christ came so that all might be one, I know that my anger is not working towards that goal, not at all. So how to do it?  When I think back to how I began this kind-of-too-long-post, with those words about Hitler and the holocaust from the pen of Susannah Heschel, I know that there is only one place for me to begin. That is by saying and praying…

God, I need help.

(I always watch this video, every Lent. May it be helpful to you as it is to me.)


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