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Jesus’ Kingly Mission

Jesus’ whole life unfolded under the action of the Holy Spirit such as his choices of the apostles and working of miracles. However, a special moment took place at the very beginning of his ministry when the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted. Mk 1:22. In the struggle with the devil, Jesus fulfills his kingly mission to overthrow the kingdom of Satan and establish the kingdom of God.

No doubt Jesus was surprised by this turn of events. Jesus went into the wilderness to pray and to fast. He wanted to make a solitary retreat to acquire a deeper understanding of the Father’s revelation and the purpose of his mission. But the Spirit had other intentions and the Spirit was calling the plays.

Spirit’s Support. We read in Luke 4:1ff that Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days: “In all that time he ate nothing so that he was hungry when it was over.” First, the devil tempted him to turn stones into bread. Next, the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he worshipped him. Finally, the devil tempted him to tempt God by forcing God to rescue him from a deliberate fall from the temple’s highest point. In the end the devil melts away. Here we witness Jesus courageously taking on the powers of darkness. Was Jesus left to fend for himself as a solitary man? No. The Spirit was a continuous presence in Jesus’ life, strengthening his powers of faith and hope.

In his book, “The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus”, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa sums up the significance of Jesus’ clash with the devil. He states that Jesus’ threefold no to the devil’s temptations were in fact an unconditional, loving, threefold yes to the Father’s will: “Satan’s defeat thus begins where his victory first began: in an individual’s free will. Jesus appears to us, at this moment, as the new Adam at last uttering that free yes for which God had created heaven and earth.”

Yet, Jesus’ final victory over Satan had not taken place. It was only on the cross, obedient to his Father’s will even unto death, that Jesus finally breaks the power of Satan. Hebr 2:14. Nevertheless, for us the struggle continues on.St. Paul warns: “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” Eph 6:12.

Our Mission. We are called to complete Jesus’ kingly mission to overthrow the kingdom of Satan and establish the kingdom of God. We are called to subject the whole of human life to divine critique and wrestle with the powers of evil—as Jesus did, with the power and support of the Holy Spirit.

Theologian Gregory Baum states in Man Becoming that the “disclosure of the demonic is part of God’s message of salvation. Revealing himself, God has also disclosed the demonic in history.” Where do we find the demonic, the evil that vastly exceeds the harm that can be done by men’s evil choices? We find the demonic at the institutional level, Baum says, when institutions forget the purpose for which they were created and make themselves their own end, treating people whom they were meant to serve as objects or numbers.  For example, when governments or church institutions elevate themselves to a superior caste concerned with their own power and privileges.

Sometimes we too struggle in the wilderness when we are exposed to repetitive, compulsive, and relentless pathological forces that threaten to devour us and make us do awful things which we do not freely choose. The pathological makes us compulsively relive unresolved conflicts of the past, makes us unconsciously inflict hatred and anger on people whom we consciously respect or clamor for massive revenge against people whose disagreement with us is only slight. We live in a wilderness, but with the Spirit!