The desert experience is one in which Christ lives out to the extreme the question: what is truly important in life? We too must ask ourselves this question. How many times do we invest our time, our efforts, our worries in things that really don’t matter? What is really essential in our life? Is it bread, power, security? Or, is it God? We must ask these questions with sincerity and decidedly seek to follow Jesus’ example of perseverance and radical faithfulness to God the Father.
What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role of God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?
Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner, and instead converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo.
“Conversion”, an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus in such a way so that his Gospel is a real life guide; it means allowing God to transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing” our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God.
Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots. Even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, despite the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, despite the criticism of many of our contemporaries.
The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence; it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases.
The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.
Here is another interesting commentary that I found by Saint Augustine: Commentary on the Psalms Ps. 60, 2-3. Our fight against temptation must be one in Christ:
“Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations”.
The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.
He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.
If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.”
Questions for Reflection:
How can you authentically prepare yourself this Lenten season so that God truly becomes the priority in your life? What are the temptations in your life? Are you aware of them? Are you actively fighting against them? Do you try to fight alone or do you allow Christ to help you? Do you have someone that can aid and support you during these moments? And lastly, in general, what concrete steps can you take to grow in love and trust towards God, especially during the more difficult moments?