Commentary on the Gospel of

Kyle Lierk - Creighton University's Campus Ministry


In the book Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, she tells the story of a young girl who gets lost in her hometown.  A police officer stops to help her and asks if she knows where she lives.  She replies through tears that she does not remember her way home.  He offers to drive her around town in his cruiser hoping that she will spot her house.  While slowly rolling down one street the girl exclaims, “Stop!  Let me out.  That’s my church.  I know my way home from there.”


It can be so easy in life to get turned around and flipped upside down such that we lose our way.  Lent is a wonderful season where we acknowledge just how lost we are.  So while ashes from last Wednesday may have washed away by bedtime, perhaps we still hear that haunting phrase ringing in our ears, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We forget where we came from (and where we’re headed!).  It’s no wonder we suffer from this spiritual amnesia when you consider all the distractions and disordered attachments (as St. Ignatius of Loyola would call them) we have in our lives.  The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins eloquently describes it this way in “God’s Grandeur”:  “Nor can foot feel being shod.”


Thankfully, like that little girl whose church guides her home, we too have a compass that always points us in the right direction.  It is Jesus.  No matter how far we stray or off course we get, Jesus is the breadcrumb that guides us home to God’s heart.

Let’s be honest (and gentle) with ourselves.  This Lent lands amidst the tattered mess of a pandemic that has taken so much from us as a global family.  The very thought of making additional sacrifices right now might feel like more than we can bear.  Similar to Jesus in today’s Gospel, we have found ourselves having our own encounters in a desolate place with darkness in all its forms.  Wild beasts torment and taunt us in the form of sickness and death, fear and doubt, abuses of power and unearned privilege, and a pervasive tribalism that daily fractures our human family.

As Pope Francis writes in Fratelli Tutti…

New walls are erected for self-preservation, the outside world ceases to exist and leaves only “my” world, to the point that others, no longer considered human beings possessed of an inalienable dignity, become only “them.”  Once more, we encounter “the temptation to build a culture of walls, to raise walls, walls in the heart, walls on the land, in order to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other people.  And those who raise walls will end up as slaves within the very walls they have built.  They are left without horizons, for they lack this interchange with others.”  (#27)

Francis goes on to say, “Radical individualism is a virus that is extremely difficult to eliminate, for it is clever.” (#105)  Perhaps the real sickness of this kind of self-centeredness is that we get lulled into a food coma by a culture that encourages us to gorge our egos only to wake up distanced from God, others, and the true self God created us to be.   How, then, do we confront these taunting and tempting traps in order to dance with the angels that minister?

St. Ignatius faced the same question during his months in the dark cave of Manresa where he began to observe and record the inner workings of his spirit (a work that would eventually become his Spiritual Exercises).  In his autobiography, he described one encounter he had with a voice of temptation this way:

It was like someone was speaking within his soul:  “And how will you be able to put up with this [holy life] for the seventy years you have ahead of you?”  Perceiving that this was the voice of the enemy, he likewise interiorily answered and with great courage:  “Oh, you wretch!  Can you promise me one hour of life?”  (#20)

Temptation and dark spirits work on each of us in ways that are quite effective in carrying us away from our true homes.  Fortunately, God puts up signposts and reminders that point toward the covenant God made with we creatures that God loves so much.  Angels come and minister to us.  Symbolic steeples rise on the horizon guiding us home.  

As we journey deeper into this Lenten season, may we be attentive to the inner and outer voices that shout their false promises.  Let us seek out Jesus, even in deserted places, and do so together.

Francis invites us to do so with hope.

I invite everyone to renewed hope, for hope “speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning...Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile.”  Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope.  (#55)

And let us follow the breadcrumb that is Jesus on those hope paths to the common home of God’s heart.


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