Temptation is Real, and Painful

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Readings for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A

Saints for Today

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Matthew 4:1

What a painful experience for Jesus.  If you really think about this, it can be difficult to understand…at least at first.

Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Creator of the Universe, the great I AM, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is in the desert, suffering for forty days while He is tempted by the devil and living among the wild beasts.  Why in the world would He do this and why would God the Father allow it to happen?  And what’s more, it says that it was actually the Holy Spirit who drove Jesus into the desert to experience this painful 40 days!  

Perhaps we rarely reflect upon all that Jesus endured and all that He suffered in His human life.  Sure, we think about the Crucifixion at times but even that is often overshadowed by our knowledge that He rose.  It’s easy to miss the suffering He went through throughout His life.  And it’s easy to miss the reason He went through all that He did go through in His humanity.

So what’s it all about?  It’s about love for us all.  It’s about God loving us so much that He was willing to endure every form of hardship and human suffering that enters into our lives.  It’s about God being able to look us square in the face and say, “Yes, I do understand what you’re going through…I really do.”  This is love.  It’s a love so deep that God Himself was willing to experience our weaknesses and pain so that He would be able to meet us there, console us in the midst of whatever we are going through, and gently lift us out of it to the new life He has in store for us.  Again, this is Love!

The Spirit “led” (Matthew’s version) and even “drove” (Mark’s version) Jesus out into the desert.  This was a way of telling us that this experience was the plan and will of God.  It wasn’t something imposed upon Jesus by some strange happenstance.  It wasn’t bad luck or an unfortunate and meaningless human suffering.  No, it was suffering for a purpose.  Suffering with an intention.  And the intention was, in part, to experience and embrace all that we experience and must embrace.

Temptation in life is real.  It’s the result of our fallen human nature.  It comes from our weakness but also from the evil one.  Temptation can be a heavy burden and cause heavy emotional and psychological pain.  And when the temptation is given in to, it causes an even deeper spiritual pain.  Jesus never gave in to the temptations in the desert, nor did He give in to temptations at any other time in His life.  But He endured them and suffered them.  

This tells us that He can be our strength and inspiration in the midst of whatever we are tempted with each and every day.  Some days we may feel the loneliness and isolation of one who is driven into the desert of our sins.  We may feel as though the wild beasts of our disordered passions are getting the best of us.  We may feel as though the evil one is having his way with us.  Well, Jesus felt this way, also.  And He freely allowed Himself to experience this in His humanity.  It was the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit that drove Him to this experience.  

For these reasons, it is Jesus Himself who is able to meet you in this desert within.  He is there, waiting for you, looking for you, calling to you.  He is there in the midst of anything and everything you may be going through.  And it is He, the One who defeated this desert temptation, who will gently guide you out.  He went to the desert to meet you and to bring you back.  And just as the angels ministered to Jesus in this desert, so also does He send those angels to minister to you.

So whether your “desert” is only a slight agitation in life right now, or if it’s a struggle against complete despair, Jesus wants to meet you and bring you out.  He conquered the desert once and for all and He is able to conquer any desert in your life, also.

Lord, I acknowledge Your perfect love for me.  I believe that You love me enough to endure all suffering, to understand all suffering, and to bring me out of my own interior dryness and pain.  May I let you be driven into the desert of my own soul and there, as I encounter You, may I allow You to lead me to the cool and refreshing waters.  Jesus, I trust in You.

40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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Becoming a Living Sacrifice of Love

What is the most glorious act you could accomplish in life? This question may be answered in many and varied ways, but there is only one good answer. Ultimately, living a life fully immersed in the sacrificial love of Christ is the answer. We are called to become a “Living Sacrifice of Love.” The path to that goal centers on the virtues of humility, trust and mercy. Living a life of ongoing sacrificial love requires you to become a beacon of mercy in this world. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is in many ways void of mercy. It is a world in which harshness and judgment are the norm. However, one of the primary reasons so many people lack mercy in our day and age is because they lack humility and trust. We also live in a world filled with suffering. But sadly, suffering is rarely understood as an opportunity to achieve the highest level of holiness. Suffering is rarely transformed into sacrificial living. Instead, it is often experienced only as a burden to be avoided.
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