After his Baptism, Jesus moves to the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan. The temptations that are placed before Jesus require of him that he turn his back on his heavenly father, relying solely on his own resources and the ways of the world to gain a sense of power and control.
This image of being in the wilderness to face temptations, where we either find the strength to overcome them or to succumb to them, is a consistent thread that runs through our lives. We embark on this 40-day Lenten journey, as Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, in order to redirect and refocus our lives on the Lord.
Each of us knows that 40 days is merely a snapshot in life. Some of us find that we can languish in the wilderness for 40 weeks, some for 40 months, and even some of us for 40 years. The Hebrew people were mired in slavery in Egypt for 400 years! None of us can really do all of the work necessary in our lives in a mere 40 days.
While Jesus does not yield to the tempter, and is able to combat the challenges – what some call opportunities – that are placed before him, none of us is capable of completely doing so. We all sin; we all yield to various forms of temptation, we all languish in the wilderness.
If this is true on the individual personal level, how much more it is also true on the corporate level? While an individual person can find the inner spiritual resolve to overcome personal sinfulness, it is far more difficult on the corporate level.
Right now we are facing the grotesqueness of the corporate sin of the Church in the world. It is a sad reality that the individual sins of some priests and deacons served as the impetus for the Church on the corporate level to yield to the temptations of the world to hide their sins instead of confronting them head on and putting them to rest.
Now again, as with any sin that remains unrepentant, this has become public and is the source of great and wide-sweeping scandal. Our tendency to point fingers and blame – a warning Jesus gave us in the Gospel for last weekend – proves to be more scandalous than does the true repentance than is demanded by such revelations.
A litigious society looks for blame so that someone can be accused and punished. A faith community seeks to find repentance, forgiveness, healing and restitution. Often these two approaches are not compatible one with another.
This encounter between Jesus and Satan makes it easy to understand how the scandal erupted to the level it did, both on the individual level and the corporate levels. The lust for power, control, and wealth comes at a cost – often a greater cost than we originally intend or imagine.
Now all of us are thrust into the wilderness, not for our own sins, but for the sins of the few. We are not generally aware of the consequence of corporate sin, as our experiences of Confession are oriented towards our individual sins. Yet, it is the corporate sins – sins which the vast majority of the faithful were not only not complicit in but even were totally unawares – that every Catholic must bear.
We know that this time of healing will not be over quickly. We also know that things may well get worse before they get better. But we also know – with the sure confidence that our faith and that history provide us – that the Lord will hear our pleas for forgiveness, and that he will raise us up again and make is strong.[[In-content Ad]]
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.