Israel wandered for years in the desert, not yet having learned how to be a faithful, holy people. They demanded that God ‘turn stones into bread,’ or at least to send bread from heaven and water from a rock. Israel demanded continual signs of God’s intervention and interest. They even worshipped the golden calf, hoping that it would safeguard them better than Moses and his God.
When Jesus entered the desert, he faces the same Exodus temptations. But where Israel falters, Jesus remains steadfast. What does this single victory over the devil mean, against the sad tabulation of centuries of failure on the part of the rest of us? What can Jesus’ victory mean, when I fall to the lure of temptation again and again?
The example of Jesus’ faithfulness may keep the saints on course during great trials; but a common sinner like me can keep an eye on Jesus’ example while still fainting under the spell of self-interest. The real power of Jesus’ victory over temptation is that it destroyed the necessary relationship between sin and death. I may fall to sin along the way, but the ultimate victory belongs to God.
The Scripture (Matthew 4: 1-3) The Temptation of Jesus
The Spirit led Jesus up into a remote wilderness area so that he could be challenged to prove himself. He went without food for forty days and forty nights out there, and after that he was weak from hunger. Sensing his weakness, the devil tried every trick in the book to lure him off-track. Playing on his hunger, the devil said, ‘If you are really the Son of God, prove it! Say the word and turn these rocks into loaves of bread’.
This journey is not meant for anyone who puts his or her own needs and desires first. Lent is the time for those who are tired of the same old results. Decide to do something different this Lent. We need to ask ourselves if our tried and true Lenten practices – things that we’ve done perhaps since our childhood – have really made a significant difference in our lives.
Lent calls us to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But we might want to go deeper than we have in other years. Can we fast without anyone noticing and work with the poor instead of feeding our own human desires? Besides helping out at the school or parish barbeque, can we find someone who really needs our help and give our free time to them? Can we give God the first few minutes of each day of Lent by spending time in prayer? It is time for us to leave our comfort zone and walk with Jesus Christ into a desert filled with real self-denial and sacrifice. Only when we are willing to stop protecting ourselves and allow God to lead us into this radical love will we really achieve a change.
In what ways will I fast, give alms, and pray this Lent?
As we go forward today, we will be tempted with meeting practical needs and forgetting the spiritual.
Jesus said, “One does not live on bread alone”.
We will be tempted to control others and gain personal advantage.
Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God and serve God alone”.
We will be tempted to get God to change situations which are way beyond our power to change.
Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”. Amen.
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