First Sunday of Lent -C

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Jesus Tempted in the Desert

In order for any temptation to be plausible, the devil knows he must exploit human need and supply a solution with a proposition which includes some truth.  Recall again the first temptation. Adam and Eve were told by the Evil One, God was actively squashing their free will by not allowing them to exercise their choice in any and all circumstances they saw fit. The problem as the devil saw it, was Adam and Eve were victims and God was the bad guy. Once convinced of the lie, the devil achieved his intention, he divided our first parents against each other and God. All temptations thereafter have the same objective of dividing instead of uniting, and so it was with Jesus’ temptation in the desert.

After fasting for forty days in the desert Jesus was obviously hungry. The Devil using the same tactics as used in Eden, questioned Jesus’ identity by claiming, if he is the Son of God, he should be able to turn the stones into bread to satisfy his human need. We all need to satisfy our human needs, but the way we satisfy them is what makes our activity good or evil. Notice how Jesus responds, “One does not live by bread alone.”     The operative word here is “alone,” reprimanding the Devil an authentic human being only concerned with physical needs will be isolated and alone.  No healthy person can live a fulfilled life on bread alone.

The next temptation of Jesus is a bit more complicate than the first. The most basic element of a human being is the physical, and the more immature a person is, the more the physical needs are paramount, like greed, selfishness and pleasure. Concurrent with the physical, a person develops intellectually and the second temptation is directed to the intellectual characteristics of the person.

The Devil shows Jesus all of the kingdoms of the earth and proposes he can have it all, power and glory if Jesus only he prostrates himself before him. Jesus again responds to the Devil, “You shall do homage to the Lord your God; him alone shall you adore.”  Here the word ‘alone’ is used again. Jesus reminds the Devil his temptation is disingenuous because all power and glory alone belong to God and not his creatures, even though God chooses to share his power and glory.  To be tempted intellectually means there is no such thing a person can’t possess or anything he can’t do if he puts his mind to it, even to the point of ‘powering over’ his brother and sisters.  Basically, intellectual temptation is to be intellectually dishonest under the guise of human advancement and creativity. Jesus successfully rebukes the intellectual temptation by reasserting the only one worthy of worship is God alone. Not the earth, not human advancement, God alone is alone worthy of homage.

Since the physical and intellectual temptations have proved fruitless, the Devil now turns his attention to trying to tempt Jesus’ spiritual core. Jesus is told if he truly is the son of God, he should throw himself down from the top of the temple and angels will come to save him from harm. Jesus refuses to fall for the third temptation by responding, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”     

Often the spiritual temptations are the most difficult to discern partly because the spiritual life unlike the physical and intellectual, is less observable. Perhaps, because spiritual life is more hidden, the temptation can be one of the most diabolical.  In a nutshell, the Devil tempts us spiritually by manipulating our relationship with God.  The father of lies often tells us if there is a good and healthy relationship then God would not let his loved ones go through the atrocities too often happening across the world.   If God is real and loves his creation, then all of the hurt, pain and death is either his doing or he doesn’t exist, one or the other. God has to ‘prove himself in any way I deem necessary for me to follow and believe. ‘The spiritual temptation can be the deadliest so we must take notice.

All three temptations physical, intellectual and spiritual can be combatted with God’s grace and Jesus’ example.  Let Lent be a time to root them out and bring unity back to our life.  

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