1st Sunday of Lent – Yr A
Feb. 29-March 1, 2020 by Kevin Williams
If you ever want to make a good contrast between us mere mortal humans and the human Jesus, a good place to start might be today’s first reading and today’s gospel.
Imagine living in the Garden of Eden. Literally, you have everything you need. You have good food, good weather, good company, no crazy demands on you. Life is good. You have it made. But then comes along the devil and Adam and Eve fall for his trick. Seemingly, out of the blue, they wanted more. Just like that, they wanted to have more power, to be like God. And the devil didn’t really have to work all that hard to get them to think they needed something else. It seems they fell for the first trick he tempted them with. We humans can be so easily fooled by the Evil One.
But things are a little different with Jesus. After His baptism by John, Jesus goes off by Himself into the desert to think and to pray. And of course we need to remember that He’s in the desert. The weather is hot. It’s a harsh, unforgiving place to be. Not at all like the place of
paradise that Adam and Eve lived in. In the desert, it would be so much easier to give in to temptations because life is so much harder in the first place. I think that’s kind of sobering right there.
Let’s look at what Jesus went through. There isn’t much food in the desert and Jesus is fasting, so He’s hungry. Then the devil tries to tempt Jesus with all kinds of worldly prizes. He starts with basic things, like food. Then the devil tempted Him with power, prestige and glory. He tried to get Jesus to reject His heavenly Father and actually bow down and worship him. In return, the devil would give Jesus control of all the kingdoms of the world. Of course, we know how the story turns out. Jesus tells the devil to take a hike. For every temptation the devil throws at Him, He has the perfect answer to refute the devil’s offer. Now, don’t think these temptations were easy for Jesus. In His humanity, He felt the pull of temptation just as we do. But, He stayed focused. You see, Jesus had His eye on a greater prize. Being one with His heavenly Father. He knew that prize is so much greater than anything else the Devil could even think about offering. Jesus also had His eye on something else. Love. Love for His Father – yes – but also love for us. He never lost sight of the fact that the Son of God came to earth to redeem all humankind. In a very
real sense, Jesus was turning down all that the devil could offer, so that He could continue His journey to the cross. He gave up so much in order to save us. If you ever doubt how much Jesus loves you, think about the temptations He turned down because of His love for you.
Now I’m going to switch gears a bit. If you think that temptations are simply put in our way to distract us, I want you to think twice about that. Temptations are actually opportunities to grow in God’s grace. Maybe that makes more sense if we look at temptations as tests. When we are tested, even if we fail the test, we have the chance to learn from it. By being tested, we grow in wisdom, courage and stamina. As an example, can an athlete go out, compete in an event and do well without being tested during training? Not a chance.
Let’s look at it this way. If we were never tempted or tested, would we ever grow in faith? I doubt it. More likely we would become complacent, maybe even lazy and arrogant. Why? Because things would be too easy. We wouldn’t have to work hard at anything. Things would happen very easily, too easily.
Let me explain it this way. When Jesus went into the desert, he had some sense of who He was, because of what happened at His baptism. He knew there was a mission that God had in mind for Him. And this was a mission no one else could do. As He submitted Himself to the temptations of the devil, He was growing in confidence. He knew there was a purpose for this test. It helped Him grow in His sense of who He was. When His time in the desert had ended, He was a much stronger human being, ready for the mission God was asking Him to do. Jesus passed the test with flying colors. But He couldn’t pass the test without those temptations. The temptations were absolutely necessary to His development as a human being.
Do you see the connection to us? As we go through the temptations life throws at us, we get stronger. We become more sure of who we are in God’s plan for this world. Now, a word of caution here. Don’t go looking for temptations to submit yourself to. That’s a dangerous thing to do. There will be more than enough temptations that will come our way without going to look for them. Besides, if we do that, we might find a temptation that is too great for us and we might fall in a big way. I think it’s helpful to remember that passing the test can often mean knowing when to avoid things that will tempt us. We are
not as strong as Jesus and we shouldn’t go looking for trouble. I hope I’m clear on that!
Let me give you an example of what I mean. There is a particular type of so-called entertainment that is geared toward men. I think you all know what I’m talking about. It’s pornography in it’s various forms. Now, speaking to all the men here but I especially want to address the married men, we are called to love our wives and to honor them. Because of that, there are certain things we need to avoid. We need to do our best to avoid certain types of movies, TV shows, magazines and websites. And we need to avoid them like the plague. This even means that when we see a popular sports magazine with an issue focused on swimsuits, we don’t stop to look at it. Right guys? I’m serious about this. We need to understand that when we give in to that temptation, it’s bad for our souls, it dishonors our wives, and it displeases our God.
Now, each of us has something that we know we need to avoid. It might be gossip, or an addiction of some kind. And there are many more addictions than just drugs and alcohol. Food, sex, gambling and others are included in that. Whatever our weakness is, we need
to recognize how it affects us and the people around us. We need to ask ourselves this question; What is it that I really need to give up?
Now that Lent is here, I can’t think of a better time to start giving up the things that we know are not good for us. Then we need to take that progress and make it a habit that lasts all year.
But we can’t do this on our own. We need the help of Jesus to strengthen us and give us the grace to withstand the devil’s tricks. One way to seek His help is to read the daily Scriptures for Mass and spend at least a little time reflecting on how the Lord calls us to live. Never tried that before? Don’t have time? Use the time that you would have spent on the unhealthy things that you need to give up anyway. That TV show that really is too risque? Spend that time with God instead. Pick up a copy of The Word Among Us and use it. Remember, we have free copies available in the vestibule. That’s an easy way to start.
When we do things like that, we can look at the mistake that Adam and Eve made and turn it into a positive. Their mistake can teach us to recognize our sinful desires and then do something to keep them in check. When we do that, we are growing closer to Jesus and the example He gave us in the desert. All of that brings us closer to where we can tell the devil to take a hike!
1st Sunday of Lent – Yr A