After John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River Jesus felt drawn to a desert place where he could be alone and sort out what he was to do with his life. He had to have quiet time to come to grips with the words God spoke over him as he came up out of the water. ‘You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
We can imagine that Satan heard these words too and suspected God had something special in mind for this carpenter’s son from Nazareth. He would do what he could to lure Jesus away from whatever God had in mind. Through tempting the hungry Jesus to turn stone into bread he tempted Jesus to seeking self – satisfaction, meeting his own needs first. When that didn’t work he tempted Jesus with the allure of power – I will give you the kingdoms of the earth –you’ll make Alexander the Great look like a wimp – if you worship me. That failed as well. Last try, how about popularity, be the rock star of the nation – throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple – you’re a special son to God – God will have his angels protecting you. Be gone Satan, I’m not into testing God.
Jesus would now begin his journey to find the full meaning of the words,’ you are my son; in you I am well pleased.’
But Jesus’ temptations did not cease in the desert.
Jesus resisted the temptation of his gaining a great reputation as a healer or wonder worker when fled from the crowd that wanted to take him by force and make him a king. Peter, the tempter, tried to talk him out the sufferings he was to face by urging him,’ this must never happen to you.’ His own family, when they heard of the murder of John the Baptist, tried to get him to tone down his rhetoric lest he get in trouble with the authorities. Jesus was tempted in his agony in the garden, when sweating blood he begged, if it is possible let this chalice pass.
Temptations are part and parcel of our lives. Usually we associate temptations with something sexual. There is a story told of a young monk asking an ancient monk, when to temptation cease?’ Only be told, ’a half hour after you’re dead.’
Temptation is defined as an allurement to something sinful under the appearance of being good. Eve saw the forbidden fruit and saw that it was pleasing to the eye. We face temptations every day. We’re tempted to be rude, impatient, dismissive of people we find bothersome. We’re tempted to dismiss from our lives people whose racial or social backgrounds, whose religious beliefs, whose life styles we don’t agree with. We’re tempted to block out of our consciousness the social ills that plague our city, street people, unemployed young people, inadequate housing, inadequate day care, food banks. These are no concern to me. We’re tempted to be fed up with or overwhelmed with daily news items of refugees in flight, refugee camps desperate for food or water. We’re tempted to the sin of indifference toward overwhelming human suffering. We’re tempted to throw in the towel as we seem to fail time and time again coping with our own personal struggles.
We pray every day, lead us not into temptation – but there are days when God seems to be on the far side of the moon. But giving up is not the answer. St. Paul reminds us- ‘We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we all are, yet without sin.’ Then Paul gives us this encouraging advice, ‘let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find help in time of need.
May we all be graced with such boldness as we face and overcome the temptations that are ours in the course of our ordinary living of our ordinary lives.