This Sunday’s Gospel reading shows us the first thing that Jesus did after his baptismal anointing in the Jordan River: He wrestled with temptation.
His baptism had marked the moment of his complete surrender to the Father’s will. As he arose from the water, he left behind his old life and began a new life of ministry.
The Father responded by telling him that he was very pleased, and the Holy Spirit filled his humanness. Jesus as God already had the Holy Spirit (one-hundred percent, he and the Spirit were the same God), but Jesus the Son, who was also fully human, now came fully alive in the Spirit. We can imagine how this experience in the Jordan River gave him the feeling of an elated spiritual high. And the next thing that happens is an attack of the devil.
The same pattern repeats itself in our lives. As soon as we experience new growth in our faith, or a new purpose for our faith with a calling to do the Father’s will in a wonderful new work of God’s kingdom, we run smack into a situation that tests the strength and sincerity of our faith. However, if this didn’t happen, how would we know that our faith is strong enough for our daily needs? How would we find out that we’ve spiritually matured? How would we know that we are ready to make a significant difference for the kingdom of God?
Sometimes without consciously thinking it, we decide that new growth isn’t worth the aftermath. If we’re going to be tested, and if we fear that we might lose our battle against evil, wouldn’t it be better not to grow, not to partner with Christ in serving God’s kingdom, not to aim for spiritual highs?
Well, that’s another temptation!
Lent is the perfect time to examine the temptations that we face every day and turn them into new growth that will strengthen our faith.
Every time we face a sin and seek God’s forgiveness, we become stronger. And if we take it a step farther by walking into the confessional with it, we also receive powerful graces directly from Jesus, through the priest, that will render temptations much more powerless.
And this makes us more useful to God in the mission of conquering evil in the world and helping his kingdom spread into the lives of the people around us.
Think of temptations as blessings in disguise: Use them as opportunities to purify your life, become more like Jesus, and grow powerful in the faith.
Questions for Personal Reflection:
How well do you recognize temptation? How quickly do you rely on the faith that God has given you to say no to the devil’s tricks? What temptation are you saying yes to right now? Are you willing to give it up as your Lenten sacrifice?
Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
Describe a time when you experienced a spiritual high and then faced a strong temptation. How did you handle it? What role did (or will) Jesus play in overcoming this temptation?