Last week Rob wrote about Agape, the unconditional, unearned, freely given love God offers each of us. For the last few weeks, we celebrated all the ways God’s mercy endures in our own lives through remembering all the ways God continues to create, dwell, reveal, and call.
Jesus, The Face of Mercy:
We cannot talk about mercy, though, without reflecting on the person who is truly the face of mercy, Jesus. It is to him that we turn to this week and for the next several weeks as we enter this Lenten season. Jesus captures the depth of God’s love for us–through the act of God becoming human and entering our human experience, through modeling for us how God loves us, and through the ultimate act of sacrifice made on our behalf to free us from sin. During Lent, our reflections will focus on Jesus’ public ministry and passion and what he teaches us about his mission of mercy.
Let’s start here:
For this week, I want to focus on two major events in Jesus’ life and how they opened him to receive God’s gift of love and mercy: his baptism and his forty days in the desert. Let’s look at the sequence of events closely.
When Jesus is baptized (Lk 3: 21-22) by St. John the Baptist the heavens opened and a voice was heard saying, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Isn’t it interesting that as the Holy Spirit descends on the Son of God that Jesus is affirmed of his Father’s love for him? It seems that God out of love and care for His son both bestows on Jesus what he needs and strengthens him in his mission. We, too, are affirmed in God’s love, given what we need, and strengthened through the graces God bestows on us to face what is before us in life right now. This is God’s gift of mercy that Jesus received and we, too, are given!
Jesus’ Forty Days:
Then, Jesus, filled with the gifts of his baptism, is led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil for forty days and forty nights. With the help of God, Jesus overcomes the temptations in the desert and survives fasting for this long period of time. God gives Jesus what he needs to overcome. God strengthens him and protects him. A friend shared a quote with me this morning from a bible study she belongs to that really captures what happened in the desert, “God often protects His people by leading them into situations of lesser comfort but greater dependence on Himself.”(Source unknown)
Jesus was led into a situation of lesser comfort that required utter dependence on God, but how did this time ready and prepare him for his mission of mercy? Did it ready him to trust and lean on God’s guidance? Did it fine-tune his ear for his Father so that he could clearly hear what God asked of him as he began his public ministry? Did it purify Jesus’ heart as he took steps to live out his vocation?
It is after Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends on him, and it is after he overcomes the temptations in the desert by complete reliance on God that Jesus stands up in the temple and announces his mission of mercy (Lk 4: 14-30).
What does Jesus teach us about mercy?
Jesus shows us that God gives us what we need, that God readies our hearts, that God protects us, and sustains us. He also models for us that even when we are living uncomfortable situations and have no choice but to fall to our knees in utter dependence on God that God will help us through whatever we face. This is the great gift of mercy that God gives each of us…God is in it with us, never abandoning us, but ministering to us the same way God ministered to Jesus during his forty days in the desert.
What are you going to do?
Lent is here. We have the opportunity, right now, to enter our own desert time, like Jesus did. What are the temptations we need God’s help to overcome? What are the “demons” in our lives that inhibit our trust and reliance on God?
This week, I invite you to stand before God in prayer and ask with courage, “God, what do you want to deepen within me during these next few weeks?” And whatever God’s answer is, you and I both know that God will give you what we need.
Want to go deeper?
Consider praying with these scriptures: