Binging on TV programs is now quite the common thing. No longer do you need to wait weekly for the next episode of your favourite show; we can get it all in one download. My Netflix account even makes suggestions to me about ‘binge-worthy’ series; apparently, I can watch the decades-long unfolding of the Viking incursions into England in a weekend sitting. As we spend ever greater time with our screens, that which we watch on them is squashed into ever more compact timeframes.
This has an effect on how we view the world as it unfolds in real time. The now eight days in which Ukraine is being invaded, perhaps leave us wondering why it is taking so long for the Russians to achieve their goal. Wars on our screens take place over a 2.5hour movie length, or a 10-part series watchable over a day or two. The manipulated heightening of our emotional commitments that entertainment can achieve in such short spaces of time, do not leave us well-prepared for the deeper commitments called for in living out our lives in real time. Time comes to us – and moves through us – in more paced-out ways.
The time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, deliberately driven there by the Holy Spirit to face up to temptations of a desirous but ruined life, unfolded gradually. We have just heard of those forty days in a matter of four minutes. The temptations Jesus experienced were real, and very personal. The devil knew his craft. They were things that he was prone to fall into. And they emerged gradually.
Each of us, just like Jesus, are faced with those desirous, yet ruinous paths down which we are prone to walk. The temptations we face in life are equally real and personal, because they are human temptations. While there are common weaknesses we all share in, each of us individually experience them in differing ways. And they will emerge gradually, according to our own personal timelines.
God knows intimately of this; after all, He became one of us. God knows what it is for me and you to face into the wilderness and to face into our tempted lives. He sends us there, just as He sent his Son; not to give in to sin, but to see ourselves honestly and trustingly. God is with us in the wilderness, which can seem so appealing, but is so harmful. And because he is with us, God’s grace is ours to use, so that we can stay close to him. But remember, this is all happening in real time, and according to our personal timeline.
The forty days of Lent, like the forty days for Jesus in the wilderness, is our time to unite ourselves with him who had done this before us, and to walk his path from temptation to grace. We cannot reduce the time for this journey, just as Jesus could not. And we should not seek to do so; there is no ‘binge’ option when it comes to the living of our lives in Christ, whose own timeline passed through his passion and death, and onto his resurrection. So, take these forty days – deliberately and gradually – as your days toward a deeper commitment in trust. Take the time to walk with Jesus.
Feature image: “Temptation in the Wilderness” by Briton Rivière
Melbourne Catholic02 October 2023
Justin McLellan (CNS)02 October 2023