1st Sunday of Lent
Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ, said, “No one is so good that he is immune from temptation.” “We will never be entirely free from it… There is no order so holy, no place so secret where there will be no temptation.” Jesus himself was not immune from temptation. While John Ruskin, an English art critic during the Victorian era, said, “No one can be delivered from temptation unless he or she has firmly determined to do the best he or she can to keep out of it.”
Today’s gospel reading from Mark presents us with a short version of the Temptation of Jesus in the desert. Matthew and Luke give many more details – such as Jesus’ threefold temptation from Satan. But Mark simply states the fact that Jesus was tempted – saying: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”
What is interesting to note is that it was “The Spirit” Who drove Jesus into the desert. Jesus did not go there against his will. He went there freely in accord with the will of the Father and by the direction of the Holy Spirit. Why would the Spirit drive Jesus into the desert for this time of fasting, prayer, and temptation?
First of all, this time of temptation took place immediately after Jesus was baptized by John. And though Jesus himself did not spiritually need that baptism; these two series of events teach us much. John Paul Thomas has this commentary and reflection: “The truth is that when we choose to follow Christ and live out our baptism, we receive a new strength to fight evil.” What Thomas is saying is that grace is there. As a baptized person and a new creation in Christ, you have all the grace you need to conquer Satan or the evil one – to be victorious over sin and temptation.
Jesus, therefore, set for us an example in order to teach us this truth. He was baptized and then was driven into the desert to face the evil one so as to tell us that we also can conquer him and his evil lies.
As Jesus was in the desert enduring these temptations, the gospel says, “the angels ministered to him.” The same is true with us. Our Lord does not leave us alone in the midst of our daily temptations. Rather, he always sends us his angels to minister to us and to help us defeat the evil one. So, we can face the harsh realities of life in this broken world with confidence, courage, and hope because we do not face them all by ourselves. Emmanuel, God is with us, is empowering us with his grace, giving us wisdom and strength when we need them.
Indeed, the Lord is with us, ready to fight the evil one on our behalf. But the question is: Do you allow him to fight the spiritual battles with you? Do you allow the Lord Jesus to empower you with the grace of his passion, death, and resurrection?
As you face the temptation of selfishness and self-centeredness, allow the Lord to strengthen you to deny yourself, to be other-oriented, to be generous in your self-giving.
As you face the temptation of materialism and consumerism, allow him to move you to seek first the kingdom of God, to seek what is above and not what is on earth.
As you face the temptation of anger and bitterness allow him to give you the courage to forgive, to choose the way of mercy and reconciliation.
As you face the temptation of senseless talk or idle gossip allow him to lead you into purposeful silence, to engage in meaningful conversations and dialogues.
As you face the temptation of grumbling and complaining, allow him to touch your sense of profound gratitude, your sense of appreciation for God’s blessings.
As you face the temptation of being too worried about the future, allow him to give you the grace of trust in his providence, the grace of letting go and letting God be God for you.
As you face the temptation of thinking of negative things, allow him to speak to you of his Good News, to tell you how much he loves you, no matter what.
As you face the temptation of judging others, allow him to remind you that God dwells in them, that they are made in the image and likeness of God, like you.
Whatever your temptation may be, know that you have all you need to overcome it on account of the grace given to you by your Baptism, strengthened by your Confirmation and regularly fed by your participation in the Most Holy Eucharist. Allow the Lord to fight the spiritual battles with you.