Deserts of temptation

March 6, 2022

It may appear to be a case of poor judgment to follow anyone into the desert for forty days, even if that someone is the Holy Spirit. Why would Jesus, immediately after being baptized, willingly enter the wilderness, only to be tempted by the devil? Surely we wouldn’t be asked to do the same. But the truth is that no one can avoid the desert forever. Deserts of temptation, deserts of loneliness, deserts of pain—these deserts are an inevitable part of human life. We too need the Holy Spirit’s assistance to withstand the temptation, sadness, or desperation of our deserts. As baptized Christians we have the same advantage Jesus had two thousand years ago. We too are filled with the Holy Spirit. May the Spirit strengthen and comfort us in our deserts. Jesus is tempted first with food and then with power, each tempting him to put himself and his own needs first. He resists these temptations by taking the focus off himself and putting it on others—his sisters and brothers, who do not live on bread alone, and God, whom alone we shall serve. Similarly, we can resist temptation by taking the focus off ourselves and putting it on others, which we do when we do the things Jesus called us to do on Wednesday: fasting, praying, and giving alms. Jesus withstands the devil’s final temptation with the ultimate refusal to give in to his own needs. In language that foreshadows what Jesus will hear while hanging on the cross, the devil challenges him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here” (Luke 4:9). After all, you’ll be fine. In the end, Jesus turns his back on saving himself in order to save us all. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2022)

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