A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Famished is not a word found in the lexicon of most youngsters. But I do recall when my children were younger they would often say “Mom, I starving!” when they wanted something to eat. I would point out that they weren’t really starving, they were merely hungry; perhaps very hungry, but that’s nothing like starving. I wanted to help them understand that for many people in the world the lack of food was a situation both life-threatening and ongoing, unlike in our house where it was merely annoying, inconvenient, and more to the point, temporary.

The gospel for the First Sunday in Lent tells us that Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by the devil, and that “he ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.” Famished: another word for “starved” or “starving.

The devil tests Jesus at his weakest and most vulnerable moment, tempting him, after all those weeks without food, to turn an ordinary stone into a simple loaf of bread. What harm could possibly come of a miracle like that? But though he is starving Jesus refuses, knowing that there is more to being “filled” than filling one’s belly, even when that belly’s been empty for forty days.
This has me wondering: when my own spirit is famished, how do I respond? Do I allow my fatigue and weakness to keep me from looking for what it is that I truly need? Is it possible for me to be so spiritually starved that I stop seeking, having lost sight of the end and instead settling for substitutes that both require and promise less? Such substitutes are numerous, easy to find and to rationalize; few would think less of me for being satisfied with any of them - all those stones that might so easily and conveniently be turned into bread, when what I really need is to seek more intently and intentionally the presence of God.