March 1, 2020
First Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Readings for Today
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. Matthew 4:1–2
Is temptation good? Certainly it’s not a sin to be tempted. Otherwise our Lord could never have been tempted Himself. But He was. And so are we. As we enter into the first full week of Lent, we are given the opportunity to ponder the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.
Temptation is never from God. But God does permit us to be tempted. Not so that we fall, but so that we grow in holiness. Temptation forces us to rise up and make a choice either for God or for the temptation. Though mercy and forgiveness are always offered when we fail, the blessings that await those who overcome temptation are numerous.
Jesus’ temptation did not increase His holiness, but it did afford Him the opportunity to manifest His perfection within His human nature. It is that perfection we seek and His perfection that we must strive to imitate as we face the temptations of life. Let’s look at five clear “blessings” that can come from enduring the temptations of the evil one. Ponder these carefully and slowly:
- First, enduring a temptation and conquering it helps us see the strength of God in our lives.
- Second, temptation humbles us, stripping away our pride and our struggle of thinking we are self-reliant and self-made.
- Third, there is great value in completely rejecting the devil. This not only robs him of his ongoing power to deceive us, but it also clarifies our vision of who he is so that we can continue to reject him and his works.
- Fourth, overcoming temptation clearly and definitively strengthens us in every virtue.
- Fifth, the devil would not tempt us if he were not concerned about our holiness. Thus, we should see temptation as a sign that the evil one is losing hold of our lives.
Overcoming temptation is like acing an exam, winning a contest, completing a difficult project or accomplishing some challenging feat. We should take great joy in overcoming temptation in our lives, realizing that this strengthens us to the core of our being. As we do so, we must also do so in humility, realizing that we have not accomplished this on our own but only by the grace of God in our lives.
The opposite is true also. When we fail a particular temptation over and over again, we get discouraged and tend to lose the little virtue we have. Know that any and every temptation from the evil one can be overcome. Nothing is too great. Nothing is too difficult. Humble yourself in confession, seek the help of a confidant, fall on your knees in prayer, trust in the almighty power of God. Overcoming temptation is not only possible, it is a glorious and transforming experience of grace in your life.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus facing the devil in the desert after spending 40 days of fasting. He faced every temptation of the evil one so as to assure us that if we but unite ourselves completely to Him in His human nature, so we also will have His strength to overcome anything and everything the vile devil throws our way.
My dear Lord, after spending 40 days of fasting and prayer in the dry and hot desert, You allowed Yourself to be tempted by the evil one. The devil attacked You with all he had, and You easily, quickly and definitively defeated him, rejecting his lies and deceptions. Give me the grace I need to overcome every temptation I encounter and to rely completely upon You without reserve. Jesus, I trust in You.