First Sunday in Lent 2011

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2 Corinthians 6: 1-10–Matthew 4: 1-11

Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil

On this First Sunday of the Lent we are called to meditate on the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.

Temptation comes from the Hebrew word ‘nasah’, which signifies being pushed to do something that you do not think of doing. Temptation usually works in three ways: flesh, eye, and mind. It controls our life whenever our flesh dominates our actions or deeds. We call this lust of flesh as Paul described it in his Epistle to the Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred…seditions, heresies…murders, drunkenness, and such like” (Galatians 5: 19-21).

There is always a battle in us between flesh and spirit. The flesh is so weak that it accepts everything that the enemy offers.

I remember the story of a High School student who always wants to try everything. He hears adults around him talking about how good it is to drink a glass of wine or beer. He sees advertisements about alcohol everywhere he goes. At every party that he goes he sees people drinking alcohol. One day, he decided to drink one glass of beer. He felt so good about it. At every occasion, he drinks one glass of beer. While hanging out with friends, he can’t miss his glass of beer. Drinking has become his second nature. Once in college, he increased the dose. He started having two and sometimes three or four glasses of beer. He was not able to finish his bachelor’s degree because he was so distracted by drinking beer. Now, he has no degree, no job, and no family to take care of him. He ends up in a gang where he started playing key role as leader. It is clear that he could not achieve anything substantial in life as result of his bad reputation.

This young man was tempted by the use of alcohol around him. But the temptation became a sin when he did not differentiate the bad side of the alcohol from all the pleasure he has experienced in drinking it.

Eve in the Garden of Eden did not resist to this type of temptation. She ate the fruit and felt so good and in turn she brought Adam to fall into the same temptation.

It must be said that temptation has the ability to break all resistance in our life and then leads to sin.

The gospel of Matthew shows that Jesus experienced everything that we face on the earth. The temptation came after his prayer and fasting. This is to tell us that whenever we are preparing for spiritual growth, the enemy is not happy, he is right behind us to push us into a pit. We must be ready to fight him back. We see that Jesus did not give the devil room to find any weakness in Him. Rather, He showed Himself strong by giving him appropriate answers. We always find excuses to cover our weaknesses and failures when we are tempted by saying: “there is nothing I can do. It is too much for me. Jesus overcomes temptation because He is Son of God, God Himself”. Such statement is false and cannot justify our inability to resist when we are tempted. Jesus was a man like us in everything but sin. “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrew 4: 15). Jesus knew the author of temptation. He knew that it was not God but Satan. That was why He fought him with the best weapon, which is the word of God.

Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame not by his own human strength but by the grace and strength which came from his Father.  He had to renounce his will for the will of his Father.  He succeeded because he wanted to please his Father and he trusted that his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. Luke says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). He relied on the power which the Spirit gave him.  Jesus came to overthrow the evil one who holds us captive to sin and fear of death (Hebrews 2:14).  His victory over sin and death won for us not only pardon for our sins but adoption as sons and daughters of God. How can we overcome sin and oppression in our personal lives?

Some tips to overcome temptation

Overcoming temptation is not an easy task. How can I resist to the temptation of Gossiping about my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my fellow church members? How can I say no to what everybody is doing around me? I know that you can overcome temptation:

– With a spirit of discernment. Do not give heed to all kinds of spirit. Jesus said “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27). This means that in the midst of thousand voices the sheep will hear His voice. It will take the spirit of discernment to identify the voice of Jesus and avoid the one of the devil. Discernment will allow you to distinguish what the enemy is putting in your mind from what the Lord is asking you to do.

– With faith. After identifying the voice of the Lord, you must have faith in what it says.

Abraham had faith in God. He knew that God would not ask him to kill his only son. He obeyed the word of God. He believed that God will provide. When you know that God will provide to all your needs, you will not listen to the voice of stranger putting doubt or unbelief in your mind. You will trust the Lord with all your heart and then he will do what he did to Abraham. He provided and He made Abraham the father of all believers. He can do the same thing in your life.

– With prayer. Prayer is a constant conversation with God. A believer who regularly prays can not fall when temptation knocks at his door. He will surely resist because he has all resources provided by God who is the pillar of his life.

The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to be our strength, guide and consoler in temptation and testing. God wants us to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12) with the power and strength which comes from the Holy Ghost. Do you rely on the Lord for your strength and help during this period of spiritual battle and growth?

“Lord, your word is life and joy for us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to it.”  Amen!