9th March 2014 – First Sunday of Lent [A]
The playwright Oscar Wilde famously said, ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’ He also said: ‘A man who moralizes is invariably a hypocrite; a woman, a prude.’ Oscar Wilde certainly knew a thing or two about temptation. How tragic it was that this great man of letters, with such insight into human nature, was destroyed by the experience of being sentenced to two years’ hard labour.
The truth is that we are all tempted. No one can escape the allure of temptation. But what is temptation? We could say that temptation is a state experienced when a person entertains thoughts, intentions or desires which are contrary to the thoughts, intentions and desires of Almighty God. When those thoughts, intentions or desires are entertained, then sin is committed. Sin unrepented of by the sinner and not forgiven by the Father leads to death. Temptation is, then, a link in the chain of circumstances that leads to death (Jas. 1:14, 15). It is important to remember, however, that there is a distinction between being tempted and consenting to it. It is the latter that is sinful.
But how do we resist temptation and how do we overcome it? A key step in the process lies in having a change of attitude towards those things which tempt us. Rather than being fearful of temptation we can regard it as part and parcel of human nature. The truth is that in resisting temptation we are made stronger in faith and in our spirits, and for this reason temptation can be seen as an aid in our spiritual growth. The great Scripture scholar Origen said: ‘God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the good that temptation has revealed to us.’
Lord, thank you for testing me and putting me through the trials of life and the trials of faith. Jesus was tempted as we are but he resisted. Teach me to follow his example and overcome temptation in the name and by the cross and the blood of Jesus.
|Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7||Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17|
|Romans 5:12-19||Matthew 4:1-11|