Father Dave gave a great homily on the first Sunday of Lent, where he talked about some of the temptations we face during Lent. I had a lot of comments from people afterwards, asking for a copy of his list of temptations, because his comments struck a chord.
The Gospel reading on that first Sunday of Lent was Luke 4:1-14 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021713.cfm): Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went out to the desert for 40 days, where he was tempted by the devil.
You might not know that Father Dave doesn’t write out his homilies. He gave me his notes, which I put into a narrative form, and I really appreciate that he wrote down some of his thoughts for us. As I read them today, they were just as powerful as when I heard them a few Sundays ago, and led me to reflect on the temptations I face in my everyday life. I flinched a bit when I read the list.
I would like to begin my homily today by offering a perspective on this morning’s Gospel story, which takes place in Jesus’ adult life. He was around 30 years old, and this took place just after his baptism by John in the Jordan River. It was just before he began his public ministry in the northern region of Galilee. And in his humanity, he is led into the desert for 40 days and is tempted by the devil.
In Luke’s Gospel account, among the temptations he undergoes, we learn about three temptations. It will be much later on, three years later, on the night before Jesus is put to death on the hill of Calvary, we will find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:
- in agony, struggling with the awful temptation of giving up
- in the anguish of his own sweat and blood, begging that the cup of suffering might be taken from him
We read about this in the Passion accounts on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
It is interesting that we find Jesus dealing with temptations at the beginning of his three-year public ministry, and on the very last night before he died. And I wonder, how often, in his humanity, during those three years of public ministry, he struggled with temptations. First, he struggled in the forty days of temptations from the devil at the beginning of his public ministry, and we learn about three. Did you catch the words at the end of today’s Gospel, “and the devil departed from Jesus for a time?” And then he struggled with temptations in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died.
It is always very comforting to me personally, to know that the Lord Jesus can understand me (and you, and all of us), especially in our moments of temptation, as we seek to understand and identify with the temptations he endured in his humanity.
And it is a constant source of strength for me, to know that the Lord Jesus loves me (and all of us), even, and especially in, the moments we struggle with temptation.
If the Lord was tempted often in his humanity, should we expect to be exempt from temptations in our lives?
The power of evil, personified by Satan, continues to tempt us in our daily journey throughout life. And to deny that temptation affects us might mean that we have given in to the temptation of losing contact with whom we really are, as fragile, sinful human beings.
I’m sure that one thing we might all gain from during our journey this Lent would be to spend some time, reflecting upon the temptations we struggle with right now in our lives, and how we are dealing with them. This might be a possible goal for some time of prayer this coming week.
It is also important to note here that temptations can actually become the occasions to realize and experience the power of God’s Amazing Grace that can prompt real growth in our faith, as we turn to the Lord in our moments of need. And if we turn to the Lord, the cup of our temptations may not pass easily, but, most often, we will receive the graces, the power and the strength to process, to overcome and to deal with them the best we can.
And if we fall and fail, his amazing grace, received in our prayer and in a special way in the absolution of a good Confession, will help us not to give up, but to pick ourselves up and move on, and try to do better.
I would like to take the risk to note some temptations I think people of faith are dealing with. This is in no order of importance, and certainly not an exhaustive list. The temptations of:
- Giving up too easily, at tough moments, and especially in relationships
- Seeking immediate personal gratification, we enjoy power, control, status, popularity — often at the expense of compromising our integrity and values in the process — and thinking that we are somehow above and beyond the moral and civil laws and mores we are given to protect the common good
- Seeing only one perspective, and not the larger picture nor the common good
- Criticizing people and institutions, without a willingness to work for acceptable solutions to issues and problems, thus creating a “win/win”
- Demanding “to be informed,” without a willingness to share in the responsibility of becoming informed
- Abusing others emotionally, and sometimes physically or sexually, for selfish reasons
- Testing God’s presence in moments of stress, sickness or tragedy, which takes the form of “I’ll believe in you if you get me out of this jam, otherwise, the heck with you!”
- Becoming apathetic — “who cares? I’ve got enough to worry about myself!”
- Becoming passive — in our faith and especially in our worship, going through the motions
- Becoming bored, needing to be entertained in order to be interested in school, worship, work
- Becoming more self-centered and selfish than in being genuinely concerned about others
- Always speaking before listening and thinking
- Becoming stubborn — it’s my way or no way
- In allowing the efficiency of technology, especially email, texting, etc., to replace the importance and power of personal presence and contact in our communications
- To be careless in our frustrations over many complicated issues and differences of opinion, and then to confuse personalities with positions of authority that merit respect, even when we are disappointed or disagree with a particular person and the way he or she is exercising an office or position that would be respected
- The misuse of our tongue and language to get attention, shock, make a point and to fight our battles
The list could go on and on.
As Jesus overcame the temptations he encountered in his earthly life by relying on the grace and power of the Holy Spirit within him, let us pray for one another and ourselves that we will learn to turn to the Lord often for the amazing graces of his Holy Spirit — and to seek the power to help us cope with and deal successfully with the temptations that enter our lives — yes, sometimes daily.
It is the good news of our faith that all temptations can be dealt with honestly, appropriately and with success, do not necessarily have the right to the last word, and can lead us to a stronger bonding with Jesus as our Lord and Savior and our commitment to faith in Him and his Church.
God bless you!