He was hungry. Luke 4: 1-13 Jesus tempted in the desert
This is the account of Jesus fasting in the desert for forty days in preparation for going public with his dangerous teaching. It shows him in his humanity. Not only did he fast, he felt he had to fast. And afterwards he was hungry.
What does it mean to fast? More than dieting – although we may hope that we will lose weight or feel fitter after a Lent practice (getting extra points for the journey). We give up or reduce things like smoking, alcohol, smart-phone use, or mindless internet browsing because we see we may have an unhealthy dependence on it or even the early stage of addiction. This also has side-benefits. But the essence of fasting is focusing. It means training the mind, keeping it on a shorter leash in its ‘default mode network’. That’s the technical term for our wandering mind and it seems humans spend nearly half their time thinking or daydreaming about something unrelated to what they are doing or who they are with now.  Monkey mind or chronic distraction is the first thing the meditator encounters.
An outer practice like giving something up or taking on something new, or a daily inner practice like meditation, works on this problem. Otherwise, left unchecked it separates us from all levels of reality. It is made worse by self-isolation as many found during Covid. It seems Putin was terrified of infection and kept himself in extreme isolation for the past two years.
After his spell in the desert Jesus was hungry. When we are hungry we become weaker and more vulnerable. Feelings that are usually kept under control may surface violently and tempt us to excess or to indulge in fantasy. Jesus was tempted sensually, egocentrically and spiritually. Seeing him confront and dismiss these typical ploys of a false self gives us confidence that we can do the same. Afterwards Jesus was ministered to by an angel. Don’t we all need angels, companions and friends so the desert doesn’t overwhelm us?
I was on a train coming back to Bonnevaux recently from London. It had been a nightmare Sunday journey, missing my plane because of traffic, rerouting to another French city which seemed to believe that no one should eat on Sundays as every supply of food was closed. The train to Poitiers was delayed, then re-routed and complicated announcements made about how to re-connect were delivered in a way that was unintelligible to non-native speakers. In my carriage, there were a few fellow-passengers also tired and fed up and longing to be home. I asked one of them if he could explain what to do. He did, and then kindly noticed I wasn’t sure I had understood. He came and sat beside me to explain in more detail. I was hungry for information and guidance and, as it was the last train, I couldn’t afford to make a mistake. He was my angel. At the station where we changed trains, his destination, he waited and pointed me in the right direction making sure I had understood. Then like all angels he disappeared.
Let us hope that the hunger for justice and for food in Ukraine will also produce angels, locally and in the international community.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022