This First Sunday of Lent introduces us to the temptations of Jesus, after forty days of prayer and fasting. As I reflected on this first temptation I was struck by how the evil one can so easily tempt us to put aside our spirituality and spiritual things in favour of mundane and material things. Rather than depend on God and His providence the devil wanted Jesus to abandon the spiritual to become preoccupied with the physical and material. Jesus did want to eat, but He would do that later, not under the promptings of the devil. First, He would remain faithful to His Father and complete His fast. His trust and confidence was in His heavenly Father. He invites us, on our Lenten journey, to also choose the spiritual over the material, the lofty over the mundane.
The second temptation was to tempt Jesus to test His Father, and the Father’s love and protection. The devil wanted to place doubt in Jesus’ mind so that He would demand the Father to prove himself, to ‘jump through hoops’ to act and respond the way that the devil wanted him too. Rather than be open to the Father’s revelation, the devil wanted Jesus to put conditions on the Father. Too often, in our human condition, we may think or say “If you love me, Lord, you will do this”, or “If you really exist, do this”. Jesus invites us, on our Lenten journey, to also have that confidence and trust in God and not test Him.
The third temptation is to entice Jesus to worship the devil, to worship an idol. This one seemed so attractive – domination over all the world for just one act of disobedience to the Father. Yet Jesus, as God-made-man, did not fall into sin, but rather remained firm in His faithfulness. On our Lenten journey, the Lord Jesus invites us to also remain faithful and not turn to idols. What are the idols of our time and place? For each one of us – depending on our circumstance and situation – this temptation will be unique. It may be an activity or a person, or an attitude. Perhaps it is individualism or materialism. What the idol does is take our attention away from God and give it to something or someone else.
The Founder of the Congregation of the Resurrection, Bogdan Jański, fell victim to many temptations in his youth – abandoning his faith, drinking, and carousing with women. As Bogdan re-discovered his spiritual life, his passion turned towards doing the will of God, and bringing about a “resurrection of society”. Through the grace of God, he resisted the temptations that came his way, including the agony over the loss of freedom in his native Poland. He found that God had a plan, and that not even the evil one could deter him from that path – the path of grace and righteousness, that has led him to be declared ‘Servant of God’ by the Church.
May this Lenten season – this season of grace – help us to overcome those temptations that plague us, and emerge at Easter renewed in our life with God.