By Deacon Daryl Fortin
For The Catholic Messenger
(Reflection: First Sunday of Lent)
On the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel is always about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This year, we hear Luke’s version of the story. And while Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts differ to some degree, still, the basic premise is that Jesus has gone out to the desert to pray for 40 days and 40 nights, in preparation for the public ministry he is about to embark on. It is during this time, that Satan tempts him. It seems strange to me that the Devil would even try to do this; I mean, doesn’t he know that Jesus is God and the Son of God, so this would be a totally fruitless effort? Apparently, he doesn’t know. As we hear in our Gospel, he twice says to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God.…”
What also seems strange to me is that Jesus would allow himself to be tempted; and yet, reflecting on this more, it is not strange at all. All I need to do is remember that Jesus is fully human. God humbled himself to the point of becoming absolutely human. Jesus became one of us precisely to experience and to endure all that we experience and endure. I sometimes forget what a great act of sheer love this really was. So, like us, Jesus is poked and prodded by the Devil in an effort to get him to turn away from his Father. What I also need to remember about these temptations is that they were true temptations for Jesus. Being God didn’t mean that these temptations had no impact on him. Being God didn’t protect Jesus from anything the Devil threw at him. Being truly human meant that, just like us when we are tempted, the opportunity to turn away and deny God was there.
At first this may seem preposterous, heretical even, but if we truly believe in his complete humanity, then this opportunity to deny God must have been there — even for Jesus. Accepting this truth helps us Christians to better understand and recognize the importance and significance of Jesus’ refusals to accept any of Satan’s offers. Keep in mind that these temptations were enticingly real temptations for Jesus yet he categorically rejected them all and remained faithful to his Father. Everything Jesus did was for love of his Father and love for us! This should give all of us the inspiration and encouragement we need when we are faced with temptations. Do we love God and others more than ourselves?
Is resisting temptation more difficult for me and for you? Arguably, yes. But, on the other hand, don’t we have the Holy Spirit with us every breath we take, to lead and guide us? In my own experience with temptations, I must admit that even though I know and believe the presence of the Holy Spirit is with me, I am sometimes simply too obsessed by the allurement of the temptation to accept this help.
This provides me with an idea for how I might make a change during this season of Lent, the season we are all asked to make a permanent change. What if, when faced with temptation, I simply stopped for even a second and asked for the Spirit’s help to lead me to the Father and away from Satan? Wouldn’t I be much more apt to do as Jesus did? I think so. I need to remember to always do this, even after Lent, because the temptations will always be there – just like they were for Jesus, even to the point of his death. The last line of our Gospel tells us this!
I pray for a fulfilling Lent for all of us!
(Deacon Daryl Fortin is a deacon at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.)