Lent is docility to the Holy Spirit

40 Shades of Lent
Week I, Year C, 10 March 2019
Deuteronomy 26:4-10//Romans 10:8-13//Luke 4:1-11

Our gospel story on this first Sunday of Lent about the tempting of Jesus at the desert sets the prevailing mood and disposition we must have on this holy season: docility to the Holy Spirit.

Docility is obedience. A docile person is an obedient one who is also attentive which is the literal translation of the Latin root docilitas. On the other hand, “obedience” is also from two Latin words “ob audire” that literally mean to listen intently. Here we find that Lent is a season that invites us to be attentive God and with others. Most of all, Lent is the season that calls us to recover this beautiful trait of docility and obedience by submitting and surrendering our selves to God and those above us like our parents.

How ironic and unfortunate that in our highly advanced world, we have become inattentive with persons and more attentive with things and gadgets. We have not only become less obedient but even less caring and kind with others because we no longer care at all with persons next to us. We cannot listen intently to parents and teachers, friends and almost everybody because our ears are always plugged with earphones while our eyes are fixed on screens! And maybe that explains why we always find ourselves into so many disastrous situations in our lives that could have been prevented had we been more attentive with our selves, with others and with God. According to a study in 2015, the average attention span of audience is 8.25 seconds while a goldfish has 9 seconds. This maybe the reason why looking at fish in an aquarium can be therapeutic… at least a goldfish can spare you with more attention than anyone!

Going back to our gospel this Sunday, we sense this spirit of docility of Jesus in the introduction and conclusion of Luke’s version of the temptation in the desert that follows right after His baptism at Jordan.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.

Luke 4:1-2

“Filled with the Holy Spirit.” What a beautiful expression to describe Jesus after His baptism at Jordan and in going to the wilderness to pray and fast, later to be tempted by the devil!

Docility in the Spirit is being filled with the Holy Spirit we first received in our Baptism, in Confirmation, in the Holy Communion and the sacraments. Every day like Jesus during His baptism at Jordan, we are filled with the Holy Spirit upon waking up because we are all beloved children of the Father. We have to claim the Holy Spirit who fills us, comes to us day in and day out. Docility in the Spirit is being attuned with God like a radio or any communication device that must be “connected” to a power or signal source. This is the reason we have to fast and do some sacrifices as well as pray during Lent so that we may be empty of our selves to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be docile to God. Without the Holy Spirit, there can be no docility.

Docility in the Spirit is entrance into the very person of Jesus Christ who is the beloved Son of God. The five Sundays of Lent are like doors that lead us closer into the innermost room of God. It is a journey that begins in our hearts. It is a journey we said last Ash Wednesday that is more about direction than destination. We enter the person of Jesus Christ, just like when He entered the synagogue at Nazareth to proclaim the reading from Isaiah that said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk.4:14-21). The people were amazed at Jesus because He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that they really felt the part of the scripture fulfilled in His proclamation. Recall also the gospel last Sunday when Jesus said “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk.6:45) to remind us that whatever good or evil comes from us comes from what is in our hearts, from the kind of spirit that fills us.

Jesus was consistently filled with the Holy Spirit up to the end, was consistently docile to the Father that reached its summit at the Cross because he was also continuously tempted on many occasions by the devil up to His crucifixion. That final temptation at His crucifixion was first heard in the wilderness when the devil said “if you are the Son of God” very similar with the words of the bystanders at the foot of the Cross. Most of all, that final temptation at the crucifixion was foreshadowed in the desert when the devil led Jesus to parapet of the temple in Jerusalem, teasing Him to throw Himself down for the angels would surely support Him.

Every time the devil tempts us to sin, his intention is not only for us to sin but for our lives to be destroyed by making us turn away from God signified by jumping from the top of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus knew this so well that is why from the desert to the Cross, Jesus remained docile to the Father, remained filled with the Holy Spirit by relying on the powers of God than of Himself or of anyone else. And that is always the temptation we also encounter daily: to abandon God, to rely on ourselves and various forms of human powers. Every temptation faced by Jesus was always a temptation to abandon God’s plans, to be ordinary, to remain stuck in the level of the of the world.

The good news is not only that Jesus had overcome every temptation from the devil but most of all, enables us to do so by filling us with the Holy Spirit. Like Moses in the first reading, remember how God saved us in the past. He will never forsake us for as St. Paul reminds us today, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom.10:13). May we be attentive to the Holy Spirit always. Amen.

The imagery of the wilderness every Lent invites us to be docile, i.e., literally attentive in Latin, to the Holy Spirit, to the things of God and of the more sublime than merely human and material. Photo by author, Holy Land, April 2017.

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