1st Sunday of Lent, Year C
All That Glitters is Not Eternal
I have a quote on my office wall an evangelical friend gave me. If differentiates God’s voice from that of Satan. God’s voice “stills, leads, reassures, enlightens, comforts, convicts, and encourages.” Satan’s voice “rushes, pushes, frightens, confuses, worries, condemns, and discourages.” As I read this particular gospel again, my eyes went right to this quote.
During Jesus’s time in the desert, Satan took Him up to the top of a mountain and “showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant” (Luke 4:5). The Lectionary for Masses with Children translates it as “quickly showed him.” Then Satan says, “All this will be yours if you worship me” (vs. 7). Of course, Jesus focuses on the object of worship (as should we) and responds, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve” (v.8).
But this time when I read this passage, my eyes were drawn to the phrase in an instant or quickly. God doesn’t rush us, ever. God, quite literally, has all the time in the world. Satan hoped that if Jesus saw all the razzle-dazzle dripping with sparkle and glitter, He would jump. And Satan is smart. Satan knows that if we look at glitter for too long, we see the shredded paper it really is and the mess it makes after it’s been spread around. So Satan didn’t dangle those things in front of Jesus; he flashed them in front of Him, like images on a screen. That fleeting quality is what fills us with panic and makes us want to reach out and grab it, whatever it is. Advertisers capitalize on this human tendency too—it’s why a sale only lasts “today” or price advertised is only in available for a few days (or hours even).
Sometimes it’s not that we want to worship something other than God; rather we’re rushed into it subconsciously. We feel a pressure to do or be something quickly, that if we don’t or aren’t, we’ll miss an opportunity, that life will pass us by. An unexpected practice during Mass or family time? But, we don’t want to get cut from the team. A position that has to be decided on by tomorrow? What if it’s our dream opportunity and we don’t take it? Life itself is fleeting and we’re instructed not to let it pass us by. Right now becomes our focus when we’re rushed.
But that’s not God speaking. Any time we’re rushed, we worry. But worry isn’t God (Matthew 6:25). We don’t want to make a decision we’ll regret, but we don’t think we have time to consider all the consequences. My husband is slowly teaching me this. He never rushes (and it sometimes drives me crazy) but it allows him to think through everything. That gift of time allows him to decide if all aspects of a decision are right for all aspects of him. I’m learning that the gift of time gives me the chance to pray.
That’s what God gives us, the gift of time. It may not seem like it—life is finite after all. But the end, the end of life here on earth, that’s not really finis. Jesus knew that Satan’s promises here on earth were nothing compared to what God offers in eternity—but we have to wait for it. Jesus knew that glitter is really only appealing from a distance. We just have to have the courage to slow down, like Jesus did, to see the temporary sparkle for what it really is.