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Jesus’ Temptation And What It Means To Us

The Gospel reading for this weekend spoke of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John.  You may recall that this was just prior to the start of Jesus’ public ministry. The whole purpose behind the temptations that the devil presented to Jesus was to throw him off track.  The devil knew Jesus’ mission.  He knew his purpose – to save his people from their sins..  He knew that Jesus came to to turn the kingdom of darkness into total disrepute so he sought to throw Jesus off track. But Jesus stood his ground.  He was not going to be deterred from his mission and his purpose – no matter how difficult and painful it was going to be.  Jesus, the Father and the Spirit are One, and so trusting wholeheartedly in the first and third persons of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus resisted the temptations of the devil.

In a very real sense, I am reminded here of the Christians that have been killed for the sake of the Gospel; who like Jesus, stood their ground and paid the ultimate price of their lives.  I am reminded of those who are being threatened and attacked all because of their belief in the KING of kings and the LORD of lords; and who continue to stand firm in their belief.  The catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraph 852:-

The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, “the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission.” It is he who leads the Church on her missionary paths. “This mission continues and, in the course of history, unfolds the mission of Christ, who was sent to evangelize the poor; so the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice even to death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection.” So it is that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

I also am reminded of the Acts of the Apostles when the early Church under the leadership of Peter was constantly threatened, thrown into prison and beaten.  there would have been a clear temptation there as I am sure there is among persecuted Christians, to renounce and deny “The Way”; to deny Jesus and Christianity  in order to save their lives.  Peter made that mistake once, but after he was commissioned by Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit fell upon him, he never made that mistake again.  So isis and these other extremist groups who think they are only persecuting a “bunch of crazy Christians” do not realize that they have raged war against GOD ALMIGHTY.  Needless to say, it is a war they will NEVER win!

So driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus stayed there for forty days without food; he lived among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God and to disrupt God’s plan of salvation for the world.. Jesus rebuffed these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him “until an opportune time”.

You will recall the story of Adam and Eve as well of that of Israel in the desert for forty years. In both instances, they gave in to temptation and in so doing thwarted God’s plan. Jesus on the other hand, is the new Adam who remained faithful where as the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfils Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to the Israelites who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Jesus the Christ reveals himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: he “binds the strong man” to take back his plunder. Jesus’ victory over the devil in the desert anticipates the greatest victory ever; the victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.  This ensured that God’s plan for salvation of his beloved was realised.

Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Catholic Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

All of us have been and will continue to be tempted until our time here on earth is done. Temptation in itself is not a sin.  What makes if sinful is what we do with it.  Do we entertain temptation?  Do we deliberately place ourselves and others in situations of temptation?  Do we give in to temptation?  That is when we start to offend God and when we need to repent.  Jesus conquered the devil in the desert and in his Passion because He was completely submissive to the will of the Father, and He trusted Him wholeheartedly.  By this victory, Jesus set a precedent for us to follow.  WE too can be victorious over the devil and all his evil tricks if we are in Christ.  Just as Jesus completely trusted and obeyed the Father, if we completely trust and obey Jesus, we too will conquer the devil and all his silly temptations.

Ref CCC  538 – 540

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