Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Rom 5: 12-19; Mt 4:1-11
Jesus is led out into the desert. He is in the wilderness. No company. No distractions. He is alone with: with the competing voices of God and Satan. What’s fascinating in these temptations is that Jesus was, in fact, tempted. There was a part of Jesus that wanted these things. He wanted to satisfy his own needs to make bread, to show his power, to have admiration, prestige of the world. He wanted them — as we want them. He struggled against these competing voices, discerned the Father’s voice and obeyed his Father. Lent is our time to face our impulses in the wilderness.
You and I don’t go the wilderness places willingly. Theologian John Martens gives some examples: “when we refuse to acknowledge rage, gluttony or gossip, for instance, as sins against the neighbor and God.” Sometimes life drives us to these places through some event: a flight is cancelled, the car breaks down, the computer crashes. Or a snow and ice storm hits. In a wilderness experience we are faced with ourselves. Ordinarily, we are a people “distracted from distraction by distraction” (T.S. Eliot). We divert our attention from what we need to face, the voices of temptation that are not of God, that look good, even enticing, but ultimately harm us and others. Jesus had no radio, television, iphone or ipad, no kindle, no email, no text messages, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no video games. He had only himself and his impulses. He had impulses to self-indulgence as we do. He faced them and overcame them – for the good of others and to serve his Father. Jesus did not need to do penance because he was without sin, yet he did penance: the time in the desert and the road to Calvary and his death opened for us the well-springs of grace, that come to us in baptism, formerly closed to us by the sin of Adam about which we heard in the first two readings. When we do penance during Lent, we open ourselves more to receive Christ’s life in us and to be more Christlike. For us, John Martens says: “Penance is essential because sin, after all, is easy. It is easy to commit, easy to forget, easy to pretend it did not happen, easy to explain away.”
Lent is our time to face our impulses in the wilderness. And we are not alone. Christ is with us to help us overcome them — as he did. It starts with baptism.
He will help us if we “turn back,” turn to him – and against those distracting temptations. Let’s try to fight our temptations, knowing Christ is with us. As Pope Francis would say: Let is ask for this grace.