My Own Temptation 5th March, 2017
When a student is going to write an examination, there is usually a moment of preparation. The motive is to put the student in shape in order to be adequately prepared to render a good account of the self. In the Roman Catholic Church, there is a similar scenario. Before the celebration of any mystery of our faith or salvation history, there is always a period of preparation. The intention is to prepare ourselves adequately for this great festival. This explains why there is the Season of Advent before the Season of Christmas.
Similarly, before the celebration of Easter, there is a season known as Lent. Lent is a 40 day period of preparation for the celebration of Easter. The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the day before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday). During the Season of Lent, we are encouraged to intensify activities such as praying, fasting and alms giving. To help us observe Lent as we should, our readings today present us with the daily challenge of temptation in our situation. Temptation is part of us. To be tempted is not to sin. Rather, what will lead to sin is exactly what we do whenever we are tempted.
Interestingly, the first and the Gospel readings focus on temptation. In the first reading (Genesis 2:7-3:17), we see how Adam and Eve sinned by giving in to temptation. In other words, by sinning, Adam and Eve abused the free will which God gave them at creation.
In the Gospel reading (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus is tempted, but unlike Adam and Eve, He does not sin. What helped Jesus in this context is not the fact of just knowing the Word of God, but His ability to apply the Word of God. Adam and Eve knew the command, that they were not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, but they failed to observe it when it mattered most. Similarly, knowing the Bible from cover to cover is not enough, but living it. Note that during the temptation of Jesus, Satan quoted the Bible. The first point to note in combating temptation is by living the Word of God.
Secondly, the devil hit at Jesus when He appeared weaker. Having fasted for 40 days and nights, Jesus was exhausted, weak and hungry. The only thing Jesus needed was food and that was the method the devil used. In tempting us, the devil will use similar means. He will not use that which we have no need or begin with our strength, but our real needs. Like Jesus, let us be resolute, let us stand firm, let us resist the devil and he will depart from us.
St. Alphonsus Liguori opines “Were you to ask what are the means of overcoming temptations, I would answer: the first means is prayer, the second is prayer and if you should ask me a thousand times, I would repeat the same.”