March 8, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Turn to Jesus when devil’s temptations enter your life

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry” (Lk 4:1-2).

The Gospel reading for the First Sunday in Lent (Lk 4:1-13) tells the familiar story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil. Jesus resists the three temptations and rebukes Satan, but there is something about this story that prevents us from dismissing it too easily.

The humanity of Jesus was sorely tempted by the devil in the desert. His hunger was real, so was his fear and his ambition (his desire to carry out his mission). As he always does, the devil seized the moment, exploiting Jesus’ weakness.

Jesus resists the temptations, but unfortunately that’s not the end of the story. St. Luke tells us that “when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from [Jesus] for a time” (Lk 4:13). Satan’s dirty work continued after this episode right up until Jesus’ death on the cross. Our Lord continued to be tempted—in the garden of Gethsemane, for example—until the moment he surrendered definitively and irrevocably to his Father’s will.

That tells us something about the devil’s relentless pursuit of us. It also reminds us forcefully that no matter how willing our spirit may be, our flesh is weak.

We need the words and example of Jesus to inspire and sustain us in the face of our own temptations. We also need to resist all thoughts (themselves prompted by the devil) that we are capable of overcoming evil by our own efforts. No amount of human willpower is a match for the power of evil. Unless we are aided by the supernatural power of God’s grace, our human efforts are powerless in the face of Satan’s superior intellect and will.

Fortunately, the death and resurrection of Jesus have overcome the devil’s power and made it possible for us to defeat every obstacle that the enemy places in the way of our spiritual journey to heaven. All that we need to do is call on the name of Jesus, and we will be saved.

It’s simple, but not easy. As the Gospel tells us repeatedly, Jesus was tempted constantly. At the devil’s urging, he was ignored, then scorned, then tortured and finally crucified by the very people he came to set free from Satan’s power. In the end, he overcame all temptation, but it was never easy. Why would we expect it to be so for us?

In the second reading for the First Sunday of Lent (Rom 10:8-13), St. Paul tells us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). Calling on the name of Jesus is the antidote to Satan’s poisonous influence over our minds and hearts and actions. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13).

We “call on the name of Jesus” when we engage in the traditional Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We also invoke the Lord’s name through our personal prayer and through our participation in the Church’s communal prayer. These activities make it possible for us to grow in our personal relationship with the Lord enabling our minds and hearts to be open to the outpouring of grace by the Holy Spirit in discerning and carrying out the Father’s will.

Next time you find yourself confronted with temptations—whether large or small—try calling on the name of Jesus. Ask him to give you the courage and the strength to resist as he did. If we place all our temptations in the hands of the one who has already overcome them, he will come to our aid.

Even if we fail and succumb to whatever temptations are placed before us, the Lord is still ready (eager!) to come to our assistance. This is the same Lord who taught us to ask our heavenly Father for forgiveness (as we forgive others) and for the grace to avoid temptation and be delivered from all evil. He will help us if we let him.

The humanity we share with Jesus is weak. We need help to resist the occasions of sin and the lies we are told regularly by the agents of darkness. Jesus is our light and our salvation. By following his example, we can grow in our ability to say “no” to the sweet‑sounding lies that we are told many times each day.

Let’s pray for the grace to say, with Jesus: One does not live by bread alone. … You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone. … You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. †

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