Divine Dialogue of God with the Soul
The temptation of Jesus in the Desert
The Gospel reading for this First Sunday of Lent can be somewhat disturbing. It may seem that since Jesus is God (He is of course), He would never have to grapple with a temptation to sin. He is perfectly sinless. But being sinless doesn’t mean He was never tempted. In fact St. Paul tells us in Hebrews 4:15, Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but He never sinned. And of course in today’s Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11) we hear in clear language that He was tempted in the desert by Satan. In His human nature, He chose to take upon Himself the same struggles we experience, including the temptation to oppose the Father’s Will for Him—in this case and also in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked His Father to remove the chalice of suffering from Him if it would be His Will. This can shake our faith unless we realize that Jesus chose for love of us to suffer everything we suffer. Although In His life He didn’t suffer the burden of having committed sin, which is a huge burden for us when we have sinned, it becomes very clear during the Passion that He even willed to experience the weight of our sins, which became a greater suffering than the physical pain of the treachery of His executioners. This makes it possible for us to realize that He understands our own experience of temptation, especially that of serious sin.
In this Gospel we see that the evil one is trying to trap Jesus into sin through the lure of earthly power for its own sake, and for Jesus to tempt God Himself by doing what is reckless just to see if God would be faithful to His promises, quoting the scripture that God would command His angels to support Jesus. Imagine the evil one quoting scripture to Jesus!
Yet that’s the way Satan works. Often He tempts us by means of subtle trickery—making something sinful look good, or telling us that we have a good reason to do evil. Or he whispers ‘just this once.’ Or ‘God will understand if you do this.’ Or ‘you owe this to yourself.’ He doesn’t usually try to trap us by clearly showing that he wants us to do evil. He knows we don’t really want to offend God. But He gets us at our most vulnerable point. And there you have it.
Vulnerability. Jesus was, humanly speaking, vulnerable after His long fast. He was weak with hunger and thirst. It’s easy to let our guard down when we are fatigued, or feeling poorly or want to avoid confrontation. Jesus teaches us it’s best not to dally with the evil one. The problem is that sometimes we don’t know whose voice we are hearing—the evil one or ourselves or God. A good way to avoid such confusion is to spend more time listening to God deliberately, in quiet prayer. Lent is an occasion to increase the time we spend with God. If we turn to our ‘inner room,’ as Jesus tells us in Matt. 6:6, we will surely find Him there and we can be certain the voice we hear is His. Let us try to become familiar with that loving voice that will never lead us into temptation because He has borne all our sins and is always reaching out to protect us from the harmful one.
Lord Jesus, help us to stand with You against the power of Satan.
Breathe into our hearts the sure and certain hope that we will come
to know your voice so that we may
follow You more nearly,
know You more clearly
love You more dearly.