The Reality of Temptation ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood,OPI
Reading 1: GN 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Responsorial Psalm: PS 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Reading 2: ROM 5:12-19 OR 5:12, 17-19
OR 5:12, 17-19
Gospel: MT 4:1-11
Liturgical colour: Purple/violet
Let us first read what we are being told in today’s Gospel of MT 4:1-11:
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
We see that in today’s Gospel, that Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert.
We are told that whilst Jesus was in the desert, he heard the devil quote Psalm 91:11-12, challenging Jesus to take God at His word. The devil begins by saying, “If you are the Son of God….” The challenge is given for Jesus to prove his identity to himself — and to others — and to take advantage of his power. So, we can clearly see that Satan can cite Scripture for the purpose of his own personal agenda.
Even The church isn’t immune to this and can also fall prey to it, as sometimes, scripture is used to oppress people and to discriminate against them. We need to not only listen intently to the words that are being said but need to listen intently also to evaluate the person who is saying the words. We need to ascertain whether indeed we are truly listening to an adviser, or indeed if could it be a tempter? — Is the person a builder or are they a destroyer? Does the person possibly have a hidden agenda — or maybe a personal axe to grind?
It is actually possible to use Scripture to prove just about any position at all. The point is that finding the right path between what is true and what may be being used for the purposes of Temptation is not always obvious.
Now that is what many of the choices which you and I face are like that we may face in our life. It is very difficult to make the choice between what is truly good and that which is bad or a cause of temptation. Christians on either side of the fence on many issues often find themselves in complete disagreement as to what is good and what is bad, to what is wholesome truth and what is actually being used as a means of temptation.
Each of the temptations which Jesus faced could all have been seen as being ambiguous in nature because:
to feed hunger was a good thing,
to show everybody his power by throwing himself off a building would be a good thing,
to overthrow the might of Rome would have been a good thing.
Even our Lord Jesus needed to think very carefully about the decisions which he was to make. The choice between good true things and of bad ways of tempting sin is not always easy.
So, we seek that our Lenten observance leads us to a deeper awareness of the world in which we live and its challenges. So that indeed, we may be far better prepared to wrestle with the important issues of our world and avoid any temptations to conform to things which are incompatible with our faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.
Temptation is VERY real!! We can and indeed, sometimes do, take the wrong path in our decision making.
The Temptations of Jesus were Very real temptations, he still but did not sin! For them to be real temptations, there must have been the possibility that Jesus would have chosen the wrong path, so there was danger and risk involved. Throughout his ministry Jesus faced these very real temptations.
We all know that Jesus did not overcome temptation only once, but indeed, he overcame temptation, that he would face throughout his ministry. In his life we all think about Gethsemane, when Jesus was really under immense pressure in the Garden. ‘Father let this cup pass from me’
So, what do we learn from this?
We learn that temptation might be ambiguous, but it is also a very real thing!!
Each of us can make the wrong decisions and we frequently do. This is not an academic exercise, some kind of theological enquiry. The message is that we always have to be vigilant! In 1 Peter Chapter 5, 8 we read
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
To finish let me end of a message of hope and good news.
Lent is often viewed negatively as a time of don’ts, of having to give up things, of fasting, of abstinence or of the withdrawal of merriment.
But Lent is indeed supposed to be a time of hope!! Jesus confronted temptation and was able to say ‘no’ to wrong actions, just as in Gethsemane he said ‘yes’ when called upon to do God’s will. So now we know there is hope for us!!!
It is possible to resist temptation. It is possible to make the right choices, to resist the pressures of our culture and society and to be free. It is possible to turn away from consumerism, materialism, violence, racism, and all kinds of social and personal sin.
The fact that Jesus made the right decision is good for us, it is a sign of hope for us all.
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