First Sunday of Lent
Battling the Temptation to Selfishness and Sin
After being filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit drives Jesus into the desert to discern God’s will. The Cross shows the Father willed his Son give completely of himself. This sacrificial offering of ‘self’ revealed God’s merciful, redemptive Love.
God also wills this of us. And like Jesus in the desert we will be tempted to turn away from our mission of revealing God’s Love to the world. Like Jesus we will be tempted to focus on our own wants and desires and to cave in to serving those selfish desires (instead of offering up and sacrificing these selfish desires). But, take courage, Jesus has given us the strength to overcome temptation.
There are three ways that we are tempted to cave into selfishness and sin. Jesus shows us how to fight these temptations through his refusal to make selfish choices:
Turn this stone into bread (gluttony). For Jesus to create bread to satisfy his bodily appetite he would have had to overturn the whole natural order, renouncing his trust in divine providence. Jesus saying no to this temptation shows us that God doesn’t will that men and women selfishly indulge their bodily appetites in the pursuit of pleasure. God wants us to hunger after eternal life with God. That’s why fasting is a great help to keeping our appetites in check, so we can focus on the spiritual life.
I will give you the kingdoms of the world (avarice). A second temptation was about possessiveness and power. Taking something just because I want it –someone’s money, safe or even wife or husband –is obscene. Like bodily appetites we need to keep this desire in check otherwise we will never be satisfied with what we have and never be thankful for what God has blessed us with.
Lastly the devil said: Throw yourself down and the angels will raise you up (pride). The sin of pride consists in my thinking that I am the centre of the universe, always right, and something to be marvelled at – people should recognize me for who I am and naturally, everything should revolve around me! Selfish, narcissistic, demanding – all paths leading us away from submission to God’s will and humble service of neighbour.
In conclusion, this Lent let’s do the best we can to battle these various forms of selfishness. Rather, God wants us to give our life up for others – to have our life poured out in the service of God. Jesus helps us to do this. In particular, the Mass helps us do this because this type of sacrifice and self-offering is precisely what the Mass is and where we receive the strength from the Lord to do as he did!