11. Feb, 2018

Overcoming Temptation

First Sunday of Lent

The readings link God’s Covenant with baptism where the cleansing water of the flood is compared to the cleansing of baptism. Through baptism we are made new by the washing of sin and by receiving the gift of God’s Spirit.

This leads to the Gospel. Jesus is in the desert because, at his baptism, the Spirit came upon him and drove him there. Having been moved by the Spirit, Jesus is in the desert to discern God’s will and prepare for his future mission. This was to surrender his life to God entirely, leading to his giving his life on the Cross. Satan seeks to dissuade him from that life-giving mission.

Through baptism we have received the same mission by the Spirit. Like Jesus we are called to pour out our lives for each other. Similarly, Satan seeks to seduce us to make us give into selfishness and give-up the way of God. Through the agitation of our mind and the arousal of our bodily senses Satan tempts us to cave-in and give way to self-indulgence. Satan presents and intensifies our wrong desires, to lead us away from God. And like Jesus, there are three temptations we must refuse.

First, we are not to assent to unchecked desires of the body. Jesus was tempted to “turn stone into bread” which would have overturned the natural order only to satisfy his bodily appetite. The Lord knew he could not do whatever he pleased, just to gratify his senses and give pleasure to his body. We must also keep the door of pleasure seeking shut as best we can, through fasting and prayer. When it opens it leads to gluttony, alcohol abuse, sexual addiction, pornography, drugs etc.

Second, we must renounce the desire to possess, and to assert power over what we believe is justly ours. Satan will whisper “I will give you the kingdoms of the world.” But, taking something because I want it –someone’s money, wife, husband– is unjust and obscene. Equally, lording over people is unjust and obscene. Those who are bound by this desire see only that which can be held in their hands. Close the door of the desire to possess; of covetousness that leads to insatiable greed, lust for power, envy, jealousy and despair.

Third, we must refuse the temptation of pride and egocentrism. The devil said to Jesus “Throw yourself down and the angels will raise you up.” This is a lie. We can’t consider ourselves the centre of the universe and that we are free to do whatever we want. We ae not singularly special, in need of being exulted by others. Neither are we uniquely infallible; always right and always to have everything revolve around us! God humbly accepted death on a Cross so let us put away our pride, malice, rebellion against God.

Sin is rooted in our desire for bodily pleasure, greediness, and pride. But we have been baptised and are called to enter the mystery of Jesus’ self-offering and self-surrender to God’s will.

During Lent, through fasting and prayer, and with the help of grace, we enter the desert with Jesus to renounce sin. Sin introduces selfish behaviours that prevent us pouring out our life for each other, so let’s commit to overcoming sin. Then discerning the path God wills for us will become clear and we will be able to pattern our life on Jesus’ surrendering of his.

Please God, Amen.

Artwork by Ary Scheffer - The Temptation of Christ (1854)