C Cycle – 1st Sunday of Lent 19
This gospel is so familiar we are likely to overlook the fact there is a significant aspect of our faith journey God desires us to always be on guard to protect. We hear this encounter of Jesus and the tempter and see it for what it is – Jesus’s temptation. We do not have any reason to consider any of these temptations of Jesus as pertaining to us. After all we cannot command stones to be turned into bread; nor do we expect to rule all the kingdoms of the world or have angels catch us if we throw ourselves off a building because we know God will protect us. None of this relates to us, it is all about the temptation of Jesus.
How can we extract something from this story in order to relate it to our lives? Is it possible that God is trying to tell us something about ourselves in this story? You know the answer to that question is yes because the scriptures are God revelation to us, and they always contain something God is revealing to us and for us to in holiness (2 Tim: 3:16). One of the goals of the Liturgy of the Word is to prepare our hearts to respond to God’s desire to flood you with his presence and create within you a hunger for more of His presence in your life.
Today God wants to open your eyes to another reality, there is a force that does not want you to respond to his invitation to embrace what he offers us and by encountering him desire to be changed by his forgiveness and love.
Before this encounter with the tempter, Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan and filled with the Holy Spirit. Then the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert where Jesus is being ministered to by angels and communing with the Spirit as Jesus prepares to reveal the heart of God to a sinful world. Instead of our focusing on the temptations of Jesus, consider your role in revealing the heart of God to others. You may not think you are called to be disciples revealing the transforming power of God but that is exactly the task God created us to fulfill. We were created in his image and glory and according to Paul we are the glory of God and since we are the glory of God, we are given the mission to proclaim the gospel to all.
For many of us that gospel message is to be proclaimed in our homes, in our work places and among friends and strangers. The Spirit that was with Jesus is with us and we were told by Jesus the Spirit would remind us of everything he said and did. We are further told by Paul the Spirit would pour the love of God into our hearts. God told us the Spirit would change our hearts so they burn with zeal for him and we would automatically do his will. That is the Spirit that was with Jesus in the desert and that same Spirit is with us to help us as we are tempted to keep silent about the love of God.
Our temptations are not of riches of the world (although that is a real possibility with the lure of wealth, material possessions) but Satan has another less obvious temptation he uses on us. He uses distractions within our lives to keep us occupied with things of this world. Our children will do something that will upset the peace in our homes and wound our hearts. We may have begun to get active in deepening our spiritual lives and suddenly we find all those plans derailed by work demands distracting us or unsuspected conflicts with those close to us. Our comfortable lives are without warning disrupted by a major setback we seek to overcome them and wondering if God really cares about what we are going through.
The result of distractions is we are prevented from beginning a journey to deepen our relationship with God and we are prevented from giving witness to his transforming power.
Adam and Eve had it all and the tempter caused them to doubt God and that tactic of doubting God is still used on us today. Jesus had no doubts about God’s love for Him. God’s love of Jesus was just reinforced in the river Jordan and everyone heard declaring Jesus as his beloved son and how He was well pleased with him. That did not stop the tempter from trying to distract Jesus by calling on God to demonstrate that love in visible ways.
Notice this temptation comes as Jesus begins that journey to fulfill his mission to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Here we are at the beginning of a Lenten journey to refocus our lives to draw closer to God, to feel his love poured out on us, to feel his forgiveness wash over us like a spring rain, to receive power from the Spirit to begin to become more visible, more vocal, more of a disciple than just a faithful Catholic and we think we will do that without any interference from someone who does not want us to feel any of those things.
Temptation will come any time we try to draw closer to God. That temptation will be disguised by coming to us in familiar faces, words and challenges. How do we resist? The same way Jesus did by a complete trust in God’s promises to us. We will gain that trust by immersing our minds in the scriptures, so they become the source of our strength and by us relying on the Holy Spirit to be with us, empowering us, guiding us and strengthening us.