First Sunday of Lent | Year C
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’
Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:
You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’
Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says:
He will put his angels in charge of you
to guard you.
They will hold you up on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.
At the beginning of Lent Luke shows Jesus dealing with temptation. After forty days in the desert, Jesus may not have been in peak physical condition, having fasted and prayed all that time in a hostile environment. That was when the temptations began.
Tiredness, loneliness, and stress can often provide the context for temptation. In these circumstances natural defences may be down, emotional or physical needs may be great, and succumbing to temptation offers a quick fix, an easy way out, or a release of pain or pressure.
Temptation is an attempt to interfere with our relationship with God. Giving in to temptation can become the norm if we are not in a good space mentally or physically, or if the resulting action has been rationalized as not really sinful.
Lent is a period of time in which we can examine the temptations which afflict us and give thought to how to deal with them. Most people do not want to sin and may be acutely aware that it actually makes them unhappy. The circumstances in which we sin can be very revealing if we look at them closely: we may be drawn into sin by the people whose company we keep, the places we go, the things we do, or even our own emotional state. To deal with the temptation will require a conscious decision to change some aspect of our lives.
Dealing with the contexts in which temptation is experienced – such as stress, tiredness, the company of certain people, loneliness – requires significant actions. It may require the support of others.
Identifying and stepping out of a set of routines and circumstances which lead us into temptation and to sin is a worthy objective for Lent. It is big stuff in terms of our relationship with God, and we can be certain that he will accompany us at every stage of the journey.