March 1, 2009
First Sunday of Lent
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe that you are leading me and that when I go astray, it’s because I take my eyes off you and cease to follow you. I know that you will never abandon me. Thank you for your unconditional and restoring love. I place all my trust in you, and I long to love you in return with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.
Petition: Lord Jesus, help me to be steadfast in moments of temptation.
1. The Role of Temptation
Jesus’ public life begins by a duel with Satan. Before working any miracles, before speaking any parables, before gathering any disciples, the Lord makes clear what his life and mission are to be about: They are to destroy the works of the devil and establish the kingdom of grace. To do this, Jesus confronts Satan’s greatest weapon against the human person: temptation. Satan seduces the human spirit into a life of sin, which involves focusing on oneself. Jesus meets the devil on his own terrain and — in the face of mysterious temptation — remains focused on the Father and his will. Temptation plays an important role in the plan of redemption. It helps us define ourselves: directing our lives either toward God by embracing grace or toward sin by turning in on oneself.
2. Wild Beasts and Angels
We bear within ourselves the potential to become either saints or sinners. No one’s fate is predetermined. Even the angels had to make a free choice of good or evil and, by this choice, forge their personal destinies. The love and dedication of the angels that chose the good made them faithful instruments of God’s will and plan. The vicious self-centeredness of the demons made them into ravenous beasts endlessly looking for someone to devour. Our person and our most intimate, most secret choices are part of this ongoing and cosmic struggle between good and evil. The hour of temptation is the hour of both choice and decision. The stronger the temptation, the stronger the decision must be. A repeated choice for a good decision makes a habit of good. Many good habits build a good character. A good character, open to God’s grace, is holiness.
3. Here and Now
Christ’s appearance in Galilee was marked by a call to decision. No one remains indifferent before Jesus Christ; no one hears his message without some sort of subsequent decision. Jesus calls all men and women to his kingdom, and this call constantly brings people to choose either to draw ever closer to him, or to pull further away. The best time to choose is always now, and the best place is always here. If not now, when? If not here, then where?
“The Church therefore understands her Lent as a special challenge to fight against evil, at its very roots. Temptation is not only an occasion of sin, but it is also a root of sin. Man is not only attracted by evil, but at times he is also surrounded by it. Christ makes man aware of all this right from the very beginning of that path which is Lent. At the same time he makes each one of us aware of the saving power of the Gospel” (Homily, Pope John Paul II, February 24, 1985).
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I want always to choose you, but I know that I am weak. Please give me strength in my hour of temptation. Please keep me steady, and inflame my heart with love so that I choose you and your ways even though it’s costly. May the temptations I overcome become the stepping-stones to a holy life.
Resolution: I will be attentive today to the subtle ways in which I am tempted to center my life around myself. When these temptations come, I will firmly commit to following Christ instead of my own selfish path.
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