1st Sunday of Lent, Year C
Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
February 14, 2016
Every time we come to Mass, we pray the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it with the rosary. It is used in the Liturgy of the Hours and other devotions. Every time we pray it, we say “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
When we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and say our Act of Contrition, it includes our promise to avoid what leads us to sin.
We need to be do whatever we can to avoid temptation, meaning that which leads us to sin, because when we allow ourselves to be tempted, we often sin.
So we need to avoid temptation. With that in mind, we here of Jesus’ own temptation. In his case, he didn’t just happen to come against temptation. No, the gospel is explicit in saying Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted.
Of course, Jesus is able to resist the temptation and powerful temptations they are. Jesus had been fasting for forty days and so he was hungry. It might seem entirely reasonable for him to listen to the devil and change the stones into bread but he doesn’t because he realizes there are more important things than bread.
Now, we need to eat but is eating more important to us than God? When we do eat, do we limit it to what we need or do we eat like gluttons? If we eat like gluttons, do we take away from others what they need? If we eat like gluttons, what do we have left to give to God? I know I need to work on better eating habits (I didn’t to be the shape I am by fasting!).
When the Israelites were in slavery they cried to God, God saw their affliction, and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. We need to remember to gift our firstfruits to God, placing our trust in him.
Next, the devil tried to tempt Jesus with power and glory. Jesus does not give in to worship the devil. How tempted are we by power and glory? Think about work. How far have you gone to get a promotion or to make yourself look good? Sometimes, we say once we get the promotion and pay we need, we will do better. Do we? Sometimes it isn’t about pay or pride. For me, sometimes I just want to get everything done. I try too hard and I get grumpy. We need to learn to be satisfied.
Then, the devil tries to tempt Jesus by telling him to jump off the wall and God will protect him. Jesus doesn’t but do we? This isn’t just about literally jumping off a wall. How often do we go out and do whatever we what and when things go bad, expect God to rescue us? When we do so, are we putting God to the test?
We are to count on the Lord, right? After all, the verse we all sang with the psalm, said “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.” We are to turn to the Lord in our troubles to “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” and to see the Lord as our refuge and the one in “whom I trust.”
When we face temptation, we must turn to God. Yet, it is not just when things are bad that we should turn to God. We need to turn to God in all things, being thankful for the abundance of grace God gives us.
In the psalm we also here the Lord say “Because he clings to me, I will deliver him… He shall call upon me, and I will answer him.” This might lead us to the idea that if we just believe in Jesus, nothing bad will happen.
After all, doesn’t the psalm also say “No evil shall befall you, nor affliction come near your tent”? Then why does evil come our way? Why do we face affliction?
I can think of a couple of ways to look at this. First, when we face affliction, sometimes it is because of our own actions. My mother would ask why she suffered with emphysema the last ten years of her life and died with cancer. Why? Because she smoked for 30 years. Our actions have consequences. They can cause afflictions.
Looking at things from another perspective, sometimes when I have a bad day, it’s because I’ve lost focus on God or others want something other than what God directs us to.
On the other hand, I have to admit that there are times when we seem to face affliction for no reason. Sometimes it is because of the actions of others. Sometimes we have no idea why the affliction comes our way.
This is when we need to remember that God has commanded the angels to guard us in all our ways. No matter what affliction we face in live, God always walks with us and wants to strengthen us.
The challenge is to be aware of God’s presence. That means avoiding sin and temptation that keep us from knowing God. It means praying in quiet solitude to give God a chance to speak. It means praying to Mass not just when we are in trouble. We need to come to Mass every week to hear God’s Word to guide us and to receive the Eucharist to strengthen us.
The Mass truly is a source of God’s guidance and strength for us. The challenge is to open ourselves to what is offered. That’s why it is still is the teaching of our church that we need to come to Mass every week. It is also why we offer Mass not just for Sunday but every day. We need the Lord.