Murmuring Temptations


When I hear the word “murmur,” I think indistinct but present, not straight communication, sly whispers, that which distracts from what I really want and need to pay attention to.

I’m praying with a Lenten devotional that reflects on the story of Zacchaeus today. The theme that hits my life is not unlike the Gospel at Mass today, which tells the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. That theme is the temptation of voices that murmur in my own heart, and how that murmuring manifests in turning away from Jesus.

When Jesus sees Zacchaeus in the tree and calls out to Zacchaeus that He wants to come to Zacchaeus’ home, the people watching “murmur” (some translations say “grumble”) about it. They gossip. They look at what Jesus is doing and choose to create stories about Jesus and that sinner. Their murmuring leads them away from Jesus. What a massive bummer— Jesus is right there, and they miss him.

What are the murmurings in your heart that tempt you away from Jesus? The dark murmurings in my heart take on the voices of insecurity, desire for control, fear, and pride. How often have I let these murmurings take me away from encountering Jesus’ presence in my life?

Zacchaeus, though a sinner and full of murmurings himself, has the courage and openness to look straight back at Jesus. Jesus sees him, speaks to him (as He does to us), and Zacchaeus “said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord…’.” Zacchaeus doesn’t shrink away or make up an excuse about why Jesus can’t come over to his (probably unkempt) home, he looks back into Jesus’ eyes, and says, “Yes.”

When Jesus does nothing short of spiritual battle in the desert with Satan and Satan’s murmurings, we learn how to combat our own murmurings. If you read the Scripture (linked up top), Satan tempts Jesus and Jesus responds with Scripture. He invokes the name of God and responds with the Truth of God’s Word. (After all, Jesus is the Word made flesh.)

When we start to hear the murmuring temptations in our own hearts, what can we do? Like Jesus, we can invoke God’s name for help. We can say things (out loud helps me most) like, “Come Holy Spirit;” and “In the name of Jesus, get behind me Satan.” Like Zacchaeus, we can have the courage and humility to raise our eyes to Jesus’ eyes.

For, although we turn away from Love in our life over and again, that Love seeks to make His home in us. Let’s draw strength from what this beautiful Scripture tells us, and say, “Yes, come over Jesus.” He’ll be sitting in the midst of wrinkled and unfolded laundry in my home, but I have feeling that He either won’t care or He’ll offer to help.

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