Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Lent is a season of penance that has been set apart by the Catholic Church as a means of sanctification for her members. The Lenten Season is a time to fast for the purpose of gaining spiritual strength in order to resist all forms of temptation.
Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis tell us that God created Adam and Eve and breathed the breath of life into them and placed them in the Garden of Eden where they received divine blessings. The serpent distorted the truth and Adam and Eve succumbed to it and disobeyed God. The second reading is a comparison of Adam, the first parent, with Christ, the head of the new humanity. St. Paul emphasizes the surpassing quality of what Christ did, the superabundance of Christ’s grace, when it is compared with Adam’s influence and which now reigns instead of sin and death.
The Gospel passage speaks of the temptations of Jesus and how He overcame them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 538) teaches that the so-called capital sins: pride, greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and laziness, are at the root of all temptation. Mt 4:1 says “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”. Thus, Jesus is not alone: the Holy Spirit is with him to help him resist the temptations he must face. The Holy Spirit helps us too when we ask Him to help us in time of temptation. Just before being led into the wilderness, Jesus is baptized by John where the voice from heaven proclaimed “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” In all the three temptations the tempter tempts Jesus to forget his true identity that He is the Son of God and give in to false illusions and disobey His Father’s will.
St Gregory the Great noted that Satan tempted Jesus with the same three temptations with which he had tempted Adam and Eve; namely pleasure, pride and power.
Pleasure - when he suggested he turn stones into bread. Jesus fasted for forty days and the devil was waiting for Jesus to be most vulnerable.
Pride - when he invited him to test God by throwing himself off the mountain. The devil seems to say “The whole city will see it. This is a better way to reign. Their hearts are yours, if you only do it my way.”
Power by promising him power over the kingdoms of the world, if only He worshiped him. The third temptation demanded the use of Divine power to establish a worldly Kingdom of God.
The Tempter is the fashioner of the “quick-and easy” style of life and he is still working on us today. In the same way he tempted Jesus, Satan tempts us with pleasure, greed, envy, pride, and a lust for power to turn away from taking up our cross daily and taking the “quick-and-easy” way. He appeals to the ego, paints false mental images of a glorified self, and twists logic to gain his way. He tries to strike when we are most vulnerable. Jesus knew there was only one way to overcome temptation. He knew that only one thing defeated the devil and that was the Word of God. The only way we can overcome temptation is the way Jesus did it – with God’s Word and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
What are the great temptations we face today? What lies or illusions convince us to give into temptation?