by Fr. Tommy Lane
Temptations. They come to every one of us. A temptation is a trick, a deception, a lie. It conceals the truth and presents falsehood to us as the truth. A temptation may even offer us something good but entices us to use it in a false and selfish way. Temptations lure us into doing or saying or thinking something that does not reflect who we really are as sons and daughters of God. A temptation tries to convince us with a false charm but is not there to help us pick up the pieces and deal with guilt afterwards. A temptation conceals from us the true road to peace and joy and happiness giving us instead the illusion of a quick and easy way to find what is really good and worthwhile in life. A temptation is therefore sneaky, offering us what appears to be a quick-fix, but is in reality a quick-disaster. A temptation is therefore irrational and has no sense. A temptation hopes we will not use our brains because if we do use our brains when temptation comes we will quickly notice how stupid following a temptation would be. It is no wonder that temptation succeeds best during those times when our brains are not at full potential e.g. when under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when tired or under stress. Is there anything more deceptive and sneaky and two-faced than temptations? No wonder that temptations come from the devil, whom Jesus called the father of lies (John 8:44).
When temptations come to us we have a choice; either to follow them like Adam and Eve in our first reading (Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7) or to overcome them like Jesus (Matt 4:1-11). After the sin of Adam and Eve, everything was totally changed. The way humans related to each other and to God was now damaged. For the first time, Genesis tells us, they realized they were naked and had to wear clothes. In other words, lust had now crept into humanity destroying the beauty of perfect relationships.
Instead of allowing ourselves to get into this mess we have the example of Jesus in the Gospel today. He suffered real temptations. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that he was tempted in every way that we are but he did not sin (Heb 4:15). Jesus was tempted to prove that he was the Son of God by misusing his divine power: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt 4:3); “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’…(Matt 4:6) During the third temptation Jesus was tempted to totally wreck his Father’s plan, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” just as we are sometimes tempted to totally wreck God’s plan for us as his sons and daughters. But Jesus overcame the temptations, not just in the desert, but temptations he experienced at any time, the temptation from Peter not to suffer his Passion and the temptation in Gethsemane not to face his Passion. Jesus healed the relationship between us and God which had been broken by the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus is the New Adam who put right the sin of the first Adam just as Mary is the New Eve co-operating in God’s plan to save us unlike the first Eve who wrecked God’s plan. As the second reading states,
Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19)
We have begun the season of Lent. Our model during Lent is Jesus in the desert overcoming temptation. We make many sacrifices and acts of self-denial during Lent and we fast. We want to pray more during Lent and donate from our surplus to help the poor. All of these things that we do during Lent are an expression of something inside ourselves that we want to do during Lent, give up sin by overcoming temptation. In other words, what we really want to give up during Lent is sin! We want to give up sin because it destroys us and only drags us down and hurts our relationship with each other and God. We want to give up sin during Lent because we do not want to be tricked and deceived and lied to by temptation any more. We want to give up sin during Lent because temptations conceal from us the true road to wholeness and integrity giving us instead the illusion of a quick and easy way to find what is really good and worthwhile in life. We want to give up sin during Lent because temptations are sneaky, offering us what appears to be a quick-fix, but is in reality a quick-disaster. We want to give up sin during Lent because we know that following a temptation into sin is irrational and has no sense. Therefore we want to be particularly attentive when our brain power is lowered e.g. by alcohol or when we are tired or under stress.
Above all we want to give up sin during Lent because we love Jesus and when we give in to temptation and sin we hurt Jesus. Every time we sin we are the soldiers scourging Jesus at the pillar during his Passion. Every time we sin we are giving a slap to Jesus. Every time we sin we put a crown of thorns on Jesus. Every time we sin we are the soldiers driving nails into his hands to crucify him. We love Jesus and do not want to hurt him anymore than we have already done. This is why we want to give up sin. Jesus in the desert overcame temptation. Because we love Jesus we too want to overcome temptation and sin during the desert of Lent. By dying to sin during Lent may we rise to new life with Jesus at Easter.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2008
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