Prayer a powerful weapon in vanquishing temptation

First Sunday of Lent, Feb. 21

Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91:1-2,9-10,12-13,14-15; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

This past week, on Ash Wednesday, we were marked with ashes and began our solemn Lenten journey leading us toward the celebration of Easter. This week, the First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel describes how Jesus was tempted in the desert, tempted like us, but without sinning. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “By the solemn 40 days of Lent the church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC 540)

In the first reading, the Israelites, having been led thought the desert for 40 days, are being taught by Moses how to offer glory and praise to God. He recalls their journey through the desert, and how God led them to this new beginning in a “land flowing with milk and honey.” It is now before God that these Israelites are to bow down and give thanks, for he was with them on their journey and brought them to this place.

The Gospel tells us how Jesus, having been baptized, is led to the desert. For 40 days he eats nothing. The devil, knowing that Jesus is very hungry, tempts him by saying, ” If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus, “filled with the Holy Spirit” does not give into the devil but responds, “One does not live by bread alone.”

Jesus knows that it is not the physical bread offered by the devil that will satisfy him or us. Satisfaction of our hunger will be from “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Tests of faith, fidelity
Jesus’ refusal doesn’t stop the devil. He shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and tells Christ he would give him all the power and glory over all of these kingdoms if he would just worship the devil. Again Jesus, expressing his faith in and fidelity to God, his Father, refuses to give in to this temptation and says, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

The devil tries a third time by leading Jesus to Jerusalem, the city where he will face his destiny. Standing on a parapet, Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.” Jesus, refusing to allow Satan to manipulate God, replies, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Unlike the Israelites who gave in to their temptation over and over, Jesus faced each temptation and did not fail the tests of his faith in and fidelity to God. After facing off with the devil, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.” (Luke 4:14-15)

A new phase of his ministry, it also marked a new beginning for all people.
In the second reading, Paul, in his letter to the Romans, identifies ‘all people’ when he writes, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”

Prayer is the key
Each of us faces temptation every day. During this Lenten season, are you ready to face these temptations and begin a new way of life? Are you ready to be fed by God as you pray, fast and give alms and give up those things you hunger for — material possessions, recognition, being number one? Are you willing to give honor and glory to God and serve him by loving others and let go of your desires for power, popularity, control and prestige? Will you let go and let God’s will be done in your life each and every day?

During the days leading to Easter, as you pray The Lord’s Prayer, take time to reflect on each of its seven petitions, especially, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God, our Father, is faithful to us in every way.

“He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it. Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the onset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.” (CCC 2848-2849)

Sharon Priester is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics and serves the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington. Contact her at dspriest@msn.com.

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