The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Driven by the Spirit

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
Mark 1:12-13

St. Mark uses a very active verb to describe what happened to Christ after his baptism in the Jordan. While Matthew and Luke describe Jesus as being led into the wilderness, Mark states "The Spirit immediately drove Him," almost as if Christ went against His will. This was certainly not the case as Jesus always maintained his free will.

A little investigation reveals that the Latin Vulgate uses the verb expellit which subsequently was translated into drove. This particular use of this verb is found only two other times in sacred scripture; both times in the Book of Sirach:

timor Dei expellit peccatum - the fear of the Lord drives out sin - Sirach 1:27
illius quoniam expellit a se timorem Dei - for such a man's fear driveth him from the fear of God - Sirach 23:27

When scripture talks about the fear of God, it refers to a profound reverence, respect, and love for God vesus anything to do with fright. So perhaps the gospel writer wanted to show that Christ went to the wilderness out of His own love for His father. Having been baptised to fulfill the law, suddenly the Trinity manifests itself to the temporal world in the form of God the Father heard as a voice from the Heavens; God the Son present in the flesh standing in the Jordan River; and God the Holy Spirit descending upon the Son like a dove.

It's tempting to visualize Christ wandering in the desert like some kind of ancient version of the television show, Survivor Man, dodging the lions and tigers and bears, oh my, while angels helped him along the way. Of key importance is the fact that scripture denotes that He spent forty days in the wilderness, the number forty nearly always referring to preparation of a much larger event, which in this case, was indeed the most important event in human history. It seems a bit out of sorts to imagine part of that preparation required a physical endurance test.

Consider this. Christ, the New Adam, was driven by the Spirit away from humanity to commune with God in direct opposite of the old Adam who was driven out of Eden to live outside of that communion. Notice that Christ is described as living with the wild beasts and ministered to by angels. Surely these wild beasts posed no threat to their creator. Does it not make more sense that Christ lived in harmony with God's creation? Was this a return to Eden to prepare for man's redemption?

And just as Adam and Eve were tempted in Eden, this new Adam also gets approached by Satan. Jesus must have presented a most irresistible target for the devil. The only way he could top his evil of turning God's very good creation of man would be to cause the fall of God's divine incarnation. That would have been the crème de la crème. It was not to be. Christ demonstrates how powerless the devil is against the truth, and after Satan's attempt to lure Christ by a crafty interpretation of scripture, the Word that became flesh summarily dismisses him, Vade Satanas - Begone Satan!

Lent presents a time when Christians are called to imitate Christ and the forty days He spent in the wilderness. Allow the Spirit to drive one away from one's fallen nature to a place where one resides in communion with the Trinity. During this time one should let go of reliance upon self and be open to the ministry of angels. Pray, fast, and perhaps be an angel to the poor through alms giving.

Christ emerged from the wilderness and began His ministry. Let all use this time leading up to Easter to be driven by the Spirit to recharge, restore, and renew so one can better serve Our Lord and his children.


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