Did you ever see the movie “Labyrinth” with David Bowie? Yeah…most people haven’t…but it’s a really good movie, sort of. There are Muppets in it! And David Bowie…and Jennifer Connelly…well, I like it. Anyway, there’s a scene in the movie where Jennifer Connelly meets this old woman who’s trying to distract her from completing her mission (saving her baby brother from the Goblin King, David Bowie) because she’s getting really close to finding him. She distracts her by trying to give her stuff—her own stuff, from her own room. Item by item, she piles her old toys onto her, and she’s mesmerized for a little while, but suddenly realizes that it’s all junk—all of it was fake stuff from a junkyard. She remembers what she was supposed to be doing and goes about finding her brother.
Like the old junk lady in the movie, the devil occupies himself with distracting us from what we’re supposed to be doing. And his favorite way to distract us is with stuff he knows we’ll like—our own stuff. He offers us that which already belongs to us; but at a rate that we can never afford. And that’s what happens in today’s Readings.
In the First Reading, from Genesis, the devil offers the people to be like God if they will only disobey God. They already are like God—they are made, “in the image and likeness (Gen 1:27)” of God. The devil is the “father of lies.” He can’t create anything himself, so he has to work with what God already made. He takes the good things God made, twists them (or our relationship with them) and corrupts the way we use them. It was true that by not knowing anything bad that they were lacking an element of what God is made of, but he tricked them into thinking that God was withholding something of Godself in order to keep them at a distance. They sacrificed themselves for what already was theirs, thus loosing everything. And for that, they had to get kicked out of the Garden so that they didn’t stay there forever in misery.
In the Gospel, the devil’s at his old, dirty tricks again. Again, he offers Jesus stuff that already belongs to Him, but this time with a different outcome. Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve, is aware that he doesn’t need the devil’s help. He chooses to be faithful to God—the only one who can really give us anything—instead of succumbing to the temptation to take the easy way out. And, unlike Adam and Eve, he later chooses freely to sacrifice Himself so that we could get everything that should have belonged to us, back. In Labyrinth, Jennifer Connolly’s character remembers one important line that is the key to getting her brother back: “You have no power over me!” This one line defeats the Goblin King and she and her brother return home safely. Jesus knew this about the devil, and we know the same thing.
This Lent we have an opportunity to see the devil for what he is—a filthy liar. He keeps taking the junk we’re selling at our garage sales and then trying to sell it back to us for an arm and a leg…or a soul. Don’t buy any of his old junk—especially since what God is offering us is the good stuff—and the best part is that it’s all FREE!