Life & Soul Life and Soul

Jesus’s temptations – and ours

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (1886-1894 ), by James Tissot

First Sunday of Lent
Deut 26:4-10; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13 (Year C)

“My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt. The Egyptians ill-treated us and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the God of our Fathers. The Lord heard our voice and brought us out of Egypt with signs and wonders.”

These words of Moses, spoken to the wandering tribes of Israel as they stood at the very threshold of the Promised Land, came to represent Israel’s unchanging faith. Countless generations, especially in times of uncertainty and suffering, would return to the God who had heard the cry of his scattered people, and had given belonging and rest to those without a home.

At the beginning of Lent we can also identify with this ancient creed. Sin touches us in many ways. We become strangers to ourselves and those around us. The relationships that sustain and nourish life are scattered. We begin to feel as strangers in a foreign land. We long for deliverance, to be gathered into a peace that rests in God, and guards those he loves. Lent is the beginning of our journey into that peace.

St Paul gives us reassurance for the journey. We began that journey on Ash Wednesday as penitent sinners, but we do not travel alone. “The Word, that is the faith we proclaim, is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart. If you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”

Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus models Lent’s journey from the confession of sin to the fullness of life in Christ’s Resurrection. “Filled with the Spirit, Jesus was led through the wilderness, being tempted by the Devil for 40 days.”

Before planning our Lenten journey, we should, like Jesus, consciously allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. It is when we leave little room for the Spirit that our good intentions so often come to nothing.

We have all faced in different ways the temptations that Jesus faced. He was tempted by the self-indulgence that makes a god of its own satisfaction. His response, echoing the words of Deuteronomy, was to assert our dependence on the Father rather than self. “Man does not live on bread alone”: a phrase completed in Deuteronomy with the words “but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord”.

We, like Jesus in the wilderness, have been tempted by the attractions of power and influence. Like Jesus, we have been tempted to put the Father to the test, taking his love for granted. It is only with the Lord, and in his Spirit, that such temptations are finally overcome.