In this Sunday’s gospel we are given a summary of Jesus experiences of baptism and temptation and the joyful message that emerges from them as he brings his mission to the world. What I have begun to explore in my sermon is how Jesus’ experience of his relationship with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit gives him his secure conviction that he shares “good news”.
Today I read the following quote from Howard Thurman who is talking about a human experience of such conviction:
One night I was awakened by my mother, who asked if I would like to see the comet [Halley’s Comet]. I got up, dressed quickly, and went out with her into the back yard. There I saw in the heavens the awesome tail of the comet and stood transfixed. With deep anxiety I asked, without taking my eyes off it, “What will happen to us when that thing falls out of the sky?” There was a long silence during which I felt the gentle pressure of her fingers on my shoulders; then I looked into her face and saw what I had seen on another occasion, when without knocking I had rushed into her room and found her in prayer. At last she said, “Nothing will happen to us, Howard. God will take care of us.” In that moment something was touched and kindled in me, a quiet reassurance that has never quite deserted me. As I look back on it, what I sensed then was the fact that what stirred in me was one with what created and controlled the comet. It was this inarticulate awareness that silenced my fear and stilled my panic.
Here at once is the primary ground and basis of people’s experience of prayer. I am calling it, for the purpose of this discussion, the “givenness of God” as expressed in the hunger of the heart. This is native to personality, and when it becomes part of a person’s conscious focus it is prayer at its best and highest. It is the movement of the heart of a person toward God; a movement that in a sense is within God—God in the heart sharing its life with God the Creator of all Life. The hunger itself is God, calling to God.
It is my prayer that in the challenges of this time, Lent will give us the space to recognise the movement of God in our own hearts and lives. Many of you will know that my own prayer life is guided by the Ignatian tradition – on this first Sunday of Lent the morning service on Radio 4 (8.10 Sunday morning) explores the temptations of Jesus in the light of the wisdom of this tradition (more details and links to supporting information can be found here: https://www.jesuit.org.uk/join-us-first-sunday-lent-bbc-radio-4)