Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Lent starts out with the great encounter that reminds us that Jesus experiences what we experience – namely, temptations. Proclaimed in our hearing was the earth-shaking encounter between the devil and Jesus. As we ponder and pray that Scripture passage (Luke 4:1-13), we envision everything just stopping as God’s embodied goodness on earth meets face to face with darkness. The passage also disturbs us. The devil seems to be dragging Jesus around like an object or a thing. Maybe that’s something for us to consider. The devil didn’t view Jesus for who He was, but as an object of manipulation to be at the service of the tempter’s self-serving needs. I tend to think that when we fall to temptations that are dark and do not build up our humanity, we become objects too and lose our very human-ness. Perhaps it would do us well, to look at the three temptations brought before Jesus.
In the first temptation in the desert, the devil challenges Jesus to change stone to bread. When Jesus pushes back, He is not suggesting that food is unimportant – that sustenance to live should be sacrificed. Instead, Jesus is saying that in the context of the human journey or pilgrimage that we all make to “Jerusalem,” dependence upon material things or even persons is not healthy. Dependence or addiction unchecked can be a source of great temptation and sin. We need to overcome the fear of having nothing.
The second temptation deals with the idolatry and adoration of the devil rather than God. We all experience temptation to make gods of people and kingdom of things. When Jesus sees what could be His, He reminds the evil one that God is in control. He does not want to idolize or become the idol. This is important for us to hear and believe. It is God who is ultimately in charge of our destiny. We must overcome the fear of having no one.
In the third temptation, the devil looks squarely at Jesus and wants “proof” that God has shown His favor upon Jesus. So, jump. The Lord God will catch Jesus whom He loves. Jesus answers the evil one by saying that He doesn’t have to prove to anyone that God loves Him. We don’t need to prove to anyone that as individuals and as a community of faith, we are his beloved disciples. When someone is trying not to understand your belief but to disprove your belief, then that is not a conversation worth having. To strive and understand is golden;
what the devil did is the tarnish of temptation that is meant to destroy. We should overcome the fear of becoming nobody!
As we begin this first week of the Season of Lent, let’s resolve to understand that sustenance is realized in humble living, that God is ultimately in charge even when we believe that we are and that someone’s belief and relationships is an opportunity for understanding and not a basis for suspicion. Resisting the temptations, Jesus draws out the best in our shared humanity. To act humbly, to let God be God and to strive for relationships of understanding might prove to be a good Lenten discipline.
Let’s pray for each other to resist temptation and be what God formed us to be and live...
As the Season of Lent unfolds, let’s walk with Jesus!
Fr. William Rosario