In today’s Gospel there is a phrase that gives me great hope:
“Filled with the Holy Spirit…Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1). Jesus, the Son of God, was tempted by the evil one. It happened when Jesus, humanly speaking, was vulnerable: He was tired and He was hungry, but He resisted the wiles of Satan, who tempted Him to vainglory, to test God, and to give in to the devil’s efforts to win Jesus over to His side…. As we read this Gospel we may think, Jesus would never have sinned. It wasn’t a real temptation. He was sinless, He was God. This must be a parable. But the truth is that in His human nature, Jesus experienced everything we experience, except sin (see Hebrews 4:15). He chose to know what it is to be tempted by the devil, but He refused to submit to him. In so doing, we learn that He understands firsthand what we experience when we are faced with a choice to sin or not to sin. We can never say that He doesn’t know what it’s like to be human at a time like this when the whole world seems to be against goodness and truth, when there are so many temptations–the internet, in movies, in fashions, in addictive substances, and in the pursuit of wealth for its own sake. He does understand.
Temptation is never a sin. Of course it would be wrong to place ourselves in sinful situations where we might be tempted beyond our strength, those near occasions of sin we learned about before our first confession. But when they come uninvited, unexpectedly, we are not displeasing to God as long as we call upon Him to help us resist. Church history is full of accounts of saints who were tempted often and gravely, but they became saints in the process.
If we do succumb to the tempter, all is not lost. In the precious sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) we are invited to turn our hearts back to God and begin again to follow Him faithfully. By the precious Blood of Jesus we are washed clean, and He never mentions it again. All is caught up in His saving death on the cross and we are saved, over and over again. What liberation. What comfort. What hope for all of us. Lent is a perfect time to avail ourselves of this sacrament of Mercy, no matter how long it’s been. If we are afraid to ‘open up’ to the Priest, we recall that when we kneel at the feet of Jesus and pour out our hearts to Him in confession, there is no condemnation on His part. He did not endure His Passion in order to cut us off from God, but to draw us with cords of love back to the Father.
Don ‘t keep Him waiting. Draw near to Him as a child does to his father. You will be surprised how gentle God is.
Pope Francis says this about Him:
Mercy is His other Name.