Tempted in the Wilderness

Gospel Matthew 4:1-11 

The text in the first reading narrates the creation and fall of our first parents. Man is endowed with greatness, but he can become a slave of temptation. Freedom is a precious gift from God. But by misusing it we break our relationship with God.

Man is freed from the bondage of sin through the redemptive work of Christ. The second reading brings to us the contrast between the first, and second Adam, Christ. The grace lost by the first Adam was regained by the second one. Paul says “however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater.”

Let me start with a short story. Mr. McCarthy, a farmer lived for many years with only his dog as a companion. One sad day he found his dog dead from old age. He went to his parish priest and asked if services could be conducted for his dog. The good priest said “Oh no Mr. McCarthy, we can’t have services for a dog here, but there is a new church down the street that might be willing.” Father, do you think $50,000 might be enough of a donation?” asked farmer McCarthy. “Well man, why didn’t you tell me that your dog was a catholic?”

My sisters and brothers- temptations make us compromise our ultimate values. This was what happened to Jesus in the desert. Immediately after His baptism and signing of contract for ministry and on the first day of His job, the devil had a few bargains for Jesus: all the bread you can eat, all the power fit for a king, a legion of angels for protection. But Jesus did not buy them. On the contrary, most of us are experts in giving in to temptation and rationalizing our behaviour. Offer of bread, power, and safety are hard to refuse. Imagine wielding power more than the American president, and having more wealth than the richest persons in the world.

Unfortunately materialism dominates today’s society. Man is worried only about eating and drinking and leading a comfortable life. But the gospel reminds us that “man does not live by bread alone.”

It is good to recall:

  • That every year more than 60 million people die of hunger.
  • 900 million children under 25 years of age die of malnutrition.
  • In my country – India some 80% of the whole wealth is consumed by only 20% of the people.

The rich become richer and the poor becomer poorer. The temptation to accumulate wealth, the temptation to manipulate and exploit is ever on the increase. Our world: especially our country needs to be redeemed, both materially and spiritually.

The devil tempts us today to adore the idols of pleasure, power and money. Some become addicted to drugs, sex and laziness.

From today’s gospel we learn five key points about temptation:

  1. Temptation is not a sin, but rather it is in the giving into temptation which becomes a sin. Adam and Eve were tempted with the promise of greatness. They fell. We should not expose ourselves to temptation. If at all possible avoid the circumstances for temptation.
  2. Temptation is resistible. Jesus is tempted but He does not yield.
  3. Temptation is universal. It is common to everyone. The temptations which you may now face are not unique. The same kind of temptation has been faced and successfully overcome by thousands of other people.
  4. Knowledge of the word of God is the key to resisting temptation in our lives just as it was in the life of Jesus. Pray for divine help. With God’s help we can resist all temptations. Take time, even if only a few minutes every day, to study the Word and come to understand the gospel of Jesus.
  5. Our efforts to resist temptations will always be rewarded.

The path of life is not an easy path to walk. It is filled with all kinds of trials and temptations, trials such as sickness, disease, accidents, disappointments, sorrows, sufferings and death; and temptations such as all the seduction to sin and evil.

The Greek word for temptations or trials is peirasmos. It means to tempt, to try, to test; to prove. That is, the temptations and trails of life are to prove us; they are for a beneficial purpose; they are permitted by God for a good purpose. What is that purpose? To make us stronger and more pure. When we conquer temptation, we become a much more pure person— more holy. Righteous and just. When we triumphantly go through the trials and temptations of life, we become a much stronger person, more steadfast, enduring and persevering. When we stand up against trials and temptations, we become a dynamic witness to all those who see us. By conquering temptations, we become much more like Jesus.