1st Sunday in Lent
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I renew my faith in you as my Lord and Savior. All things were made through you and without you nothing was made. Your power as God was matched by your love. Not only did you create me out of love, you came, taught and redeemed me through love. Your power and your love are why I trust in you, and what move me to try to love you as you deserve. Fill me with a trust that will be expressed in my daily life by trying to please you in all.
Petition: Lord Jesus, help me to remember in my hours of temptation that you have won me the grace I need to be faithful.
1. The Role of Temptation. The public life of Jesus begins with a duel with Satan. Before working any miracles, before speaking any parables, before gathering any disciples, the Lord makes clear what his life and mission are to be about. It is to destroy the power and works of Satan, and establish the kingdom of grace. To do this, Jesus confronted Satan’s constant tactic against us: temptation. From the time of Adam, Satan seduced men to sin with the false promises of temptation, getting him to think of himself and his own advantage rather than what God wants, and he continues to do so. Jesus goes out to meet the devil on his own terrain, the smoke and mirrors of temptation, and defeats him.
This means in the first place that temptation in itself is not bad. Overcome, it does us great good. It can be overcome using the two means Christ used, prayer and sacrifice, and having the same point of reference as him: the Father’s word. Temptation helps us to define ourselves by either directing our lives toward God by seeking and doing what he wants, through grace, or toward sin through by seeking and following my own desires. Every time we face temptation we are always free to accept or reject it. But this freedom will be stronger or weaker in proportion to the presence or absence of prayer and sacrifice in our life.
2. Wild Beasts and Angels. He was among wild beasts, this speaks of danger. Angels ministered to him, speaks of God’s care for the soul that seeks him. These two elements will always be with us. We are always in danger, and yet we are always protected. The opportunity is always there to become in each moment either a saint or a sinner. No one’s fate is predetermined. That is why we ought never to be either discouraged or too sure of ourselves at any given time. However, each choice we make shapes us and creates habits, and we begin to repeat ourselves in our response to temptation. That is why it is important to resist temptation in small things, so as to be stronger in the bigger. That is how we build holiness. Whoever is faithful in the little things will be faithful in the greater, whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in the greater ones. (Lk 16:10)
3. "After John Was Arrested Jesus Came to Galilee to Preach." First of all, there is a great act of courage here. Jesus is going to follow up on John’s preaching, for John’s preaching was to open the way for Jesus. But just when he is about to start, John is arrested. A strong warning to Jesus. It would have made a more “prudent” man figure that now was not the time, “better let things cool down a little”. Jesus is not that type of man. John preached repentance and had just been thrown in prison, and now Jesus sets out with the same message, Repent and believe. Not only does overcoming temptation make us good people and keep us in God’s grace, but by that same token it makes us courageous to go out and spread his Kingdom. Jesus’ human character was forged in adversity while he resisted temptation, and made him the courageous one who set out on his mission at a most dangerous time.
Lent, with its extra prayer and penance can be that turning point I need. Here lies perhaps the secret to a more faithful me. A more courageous me. Temptation is not only an occasion of sin, but it is also an opportunity to be faithful. Man is not only attracted by evil, but at times he is also surrounded by it. Christ makes man aware of all this right from the very beginning of that journey which is Lent. At the same time he makes each one of us aware of the saving power of the Gospel (Homily of Pope John Paul II, Feb 24, 1985).
Conversation: Lord Jesus, give me strength in my hour of temptation. May the temptations I overcome become the stepping-stones to a holy and more courageous life.
1. What is my attitude toward temptation?
2. Do I exaggerate temptation and forget that God is also near with his grace? What stops me from heeding what he says?
3. What will I do this Lent in terms of prayer and sacrifice, and what do I hope to accomplish through it?