We deal with temptations all our lives. We are tempted by food, the love of money, expensive clothes, to do something we know we should not do. Temptations are all around us everyday; at school, at work, at home; everywhere!
As people of faith, when tempted to turn away from evil, do we follow the lead of Jesus and follow the plan of God our Father?
On this 1st Sunday of Lent, the Church gives us the Gospel account from St. Matthew of Jesus being tempted by the devil. This occurs immediately after the Baptism of Jesus. Using the parallel of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years, we find Jesus in the desert for forty days. Consider the conditions of the desert as Jesus would find it: foreboding, hot by day, cold by night, stark, dreary, and windy, no shade, no food and no water. And to make the desert experience worse; here comes the devil hopeful that he can tempt Jesus with his deceptions.
The devil, following his pattern in the Garden of Eden, attempts to use cunning and lies to challenge Jesus. He tells Jesus rather boldly, “if you are the Son of God” challenging His identity and His authority. What follows is three dares: change the stones into bread, jump from the parapet of the temple and finally bow and worship me and I will give you the kingdoms of the world. And to make these temptations even more appealing, the devil quotes Scripture. But just like that dreaded curtain #1, the devils promises indeed disappoint.
Unlike Adam & Eve in the Garden, Jesus will prevail in the battle of the devils temptations. Jesus refuses to bow to the will of the devil, resists him completely and totally fulfills the will of His heavenly Father. Jesus does not turn stones to bread but will turn bread and wine into His Body and Blood that we take in memory of Him. Jesus does not throw himself from the temple but leaps for us into the great dark abyss of death on a cross so we may have eternal life. Jesus will not worship the devil, or anyone else, except His heavenly Father, pointing the way for each of us to follow God in all things, at all times.
Pope Benedict, in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, tells us that like Jesus we are to go to the Father when tempted. We are to never cast God aside from that which tempts us in this world. No matter how hot or cold, hungry or thirsty, no matter how attractive worldliness seems, follow the model of Jesus in the desert and say no to the devil. Make God first, let Him mold us and teach us His ways.
With Lent only a few days old, how can we respond to the lesson we learn in today’s Gospel? Can we pledge to make reconciliation an important part of our Lenten journey? We can find God’s abundant love and mercy when we seek His forgiveness in a Sacramental way, in Reconciliation. Can we pledge to be faithful to our Lenten devotions by attending Stations of the Cross on Friday’s in Lent? Will we pledge to follow the Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving? Daily prayer is a must; perhaps a morning offering or reciting the 51st Psalm, or praying with the daily Lenten readings. Fasting means abstaining from meat on Fridays and the prescribed days and cutting back on the excess that dominates so many of our personal diets. Almsgiving is the simple sharing of our time, talent and treasure in support of others. We may choose to give something up for Lent, or do something extra, something special for Lent, something done for the good of the other!
As we prepare to meet Jesus in the Eucharist on this first Sunday of Lent, can we be aware of God’s love and mercy for us and the perfect model we have in Jesus showing us the way? We don’t need anything the devil has to offer. We can resist those temptations. We don’t need to make a deal and take what’s behind curtain #1.
God’s love and Jesus’ example is all we need. And that’s a deal we all should be willing to take!