March 6, 2022; Lk 4:1-13; 1st Sunday of Lent
In today’s gospel Jesus fights with the devil. Three times the devil tempts Jesus to sin, and three times Jesus resists. What is clear from this gospel is that if even Jesus was tempted, we can expect temptations in our own lives. I am sure that many of us could quickly come up with a list of those temptations that we most frequently face: striking out in anger against a spouse when he or she disappoints us, neglecting our responsibility to our family out of laziness, including lies in a story to make ourselves look better. All these temptations intice us. With God’s grace, however, we can resist them.
But the devil is a clever guy. He knows that he will be much more successful if he can deceive us. If he can present temptation to us, not as temptation, but as an opportunity to do something good. The devil knows that if he can lead us to sin by making us believe that we are about to do something that is beneficial or positive, we will never have a chance to resist.
There may be someone at work or in our neighborhood who irriates and annoys us. Then we see that person doing something wrong, taking short cuts, not fulfilling his responsibility. The devil says to us, “You know. That person should be put in their place. He should know how his actions hurt others. Don’t worry about how he might feel. He deserves the truth about his own selfishness.” We listen to the devil and strike out against that person with both barrels. What we have done is vent our anger against a person we do not like, all the while pretending that we are telling him the truth for his own benefit. We know people who are not as religious as we are. God’s role their life is weak. The devil says to us, “You know, you should look down on those people. They are secular, anti religious, even selfish. They are not as close to God as you are. They do not say their prayers or come to church.” We do look down on them, and what we have done is feed our own pride and superiority, all the time pretending we are just describing things the way they are. We might have an opportunity to support those who are poor or unemployed through a charitable gift or the support of a government assistance program. But the devil says to us, “Careful. You do not want people to become dependent on your charity. No one should get something for nothing. Why isn’t that person working as hard as you are?” And so we let the poor suffer, even though Jesus has told us we are to care for them, all the time believing that we are doing that for their own good.
The devil is the father of lies. And nothing makes him happier than presenting a sin to us under the appearance of something good. That is why this Lenten season is the perfect time for us to examine our own motivations. Why do we do the things that we do? Are our motivations pure? Are we acting because we want others to know the truth, come to faith in Jesus, or become self sufficient? Or are we acting to so we can strike out in anger, feel important, or feed our own selfishness. Knowing what really motivates us is important, because the devil cannot be trusted. It is only by keeping our hearts safe from his lies that we will be able to give ourselves to Christ.