Pastor’s Reflection

Autopilot and the Desert

Autopilot was invented in 1912 by the Sperry Corporation for the newly emerging airplane.  An autopilot system controlled the trajectory of a flying or later even land vehicle without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator.  They go more and more sophisticated.  The readings of this First Sunday of Lent, present Christians with the challenge of looking into our lives to find the truth of who we are and realign it with the Spirit.  Our trajectory often needs scrutiny.

So many of us live on autopilot trajectories.  Seldom do we think about our larger things, or whether we are cooperating with grace, until a crisis of limit or death knocks us off our high horse.  But there are times when we have a heightened awareness of who we are, where we are going and how to get there.  Lent is a season to become aware of our trajectories and take ourselves off autopilot.

The church has also gone on autopilot at times in her history, losing its way, turning in on itself, failing to proclaim the good news of God’s reign.  Recent news still reminds us how far we have to go.  Israel seemed on a similar drift when Jesus appeared.  He faced great resistance when he sought to announce the good news.  In the end, he surrendered his life on the cross in order to complete his mission to reveal God’s mercy in a new way.  His suffering, death and resurrection made clear the face of a merciful God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus follows the lead of the Spirit by submitting to personal purification and testing, going out into the Judean wilderness to fast for 40 days.  After this comes an encounter with Satan, who tempts him in every way possible, hoping to seduce him into following his own guidance and power.  Jesus wrestles against privilege power and pleasure as we eventually have to, becoming God’s suffering servant.

Two thousand years later, the followers of Jesus are still called to be servant-evangelists.  Pope Francis reminds us to “back up and turn around” to find Jesus’ message, even when it must be recovered from our very hectic lives and preoccupations.  Lenten silence somewhere on our calendars can bring us to confront all the seductions of our Western style of life.  It can make us hungry for God’s presence and sovereignty, for real intimacy and solidarity with others.  It can make us into the proof of God’s love for the poor.

Pope Francis writing asks us to “savor the joy” that comes from being a servant, the kind that Jesus became in the desert.  This Lenten season invites us to simplify our lives, to identify with what is most basic.  If we listen deeply, the Spirit will lead us into the desert to fast, pray and face our own temptations.  Only then can we follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.

A gentle week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM

Thanks to Celebration’s, Deacon Ross Beaudoin, for the trajectory of the above reflection.

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