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Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

                                                   Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Temptation refers to the allurement or enticement to do something that falls outside the scope of right conduct or moral expectations. From the spiritual perspective, temptation is an occasion that precedes a sinful act or omission.

One of the truths that some people find difficult to accept is that nobody is above the argumentative power of temptation. However, what defines the strength of your character is not the temptations you face but how you respond to them.

The Temptation of Jesus Christ

To imagine that our Lord Jesus was tempted tells us that the tempter does not respect your person, office, or position. It further tells us that temptation is a very relevant spiritual subject that requires our understanding of its dynamics. 

On this First Sunday of Lent, we read Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13). Luke tells us that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil. The first insight here is that the entire forty days of Jesus in the desert was a period of temptation aside from his fasting and prayers.

The Weapon of the Temper

At the end of the forty days, we learn about the three significant temptations that confronted our Lord Jesus Christ at the instance of the devil. First, however, we must know that the adversary comes with one important weapon: exclusive attention to self.

The weapon of self is very powerful because of our default tendency to self-image, self-need, self-preservation, self-defense, self-aggrandizement, and ultimately selfishness. We can make bold to say that there would be no temptation and subsequent sin if our “self” component is not activated.

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” So first, the tempter leverages the immediate need of Jesus after the forty days of fasting, namely, food; he was hungry. But to achieve this, the devil challenges his position as the Son of God. 

This was a direct appeal to Jesus’ self-image. The devil was asking him to misuse his office to satisfy himself. So Jesus responds employing what God has said, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word the proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“I shall give to you all this power and glory (for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish). All this will be yours if you worship me.” Again, Jesus replies with the written word of God, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Exodus 20:3-4).

In the second temptation, the devil discloses the desire to be worshipped. It further shows that he uses vanities and material wealth to lure people into false worship. This is very evident in our world today, as many people run after “kingdoms of wealth” to the detriment of their worship of the true God.

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and with their hands, they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” 

Here, the devil appeals to the written word of God to advance his allurement to sin. So, we should not give in when temptations come with the scripture as a pretext. Furthermore, another deceptive arsenal of the devil shows here, namely, presumption which the Psalmist prayed against (Psalm 19:13). 

Answering, our Lord Jesus Christ once again turns to the word of God that clearly states that we should not put the Lord our God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). 

Moving Forward: Overcoming the Tempter’s Allurements

The narrative of the temptation of Jesus Christ does two things: it shows us that we can also be tempted, and secondly, it shows us how we can win over the temptations that come our way. These avenues are open to us when we are tempted.

Resist the Tempter: Compliance is one thing the devil seriously wants from us, so it means he repulses resistance. St. James was very clear on this when he said, “submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 

Resistance is an arsenal that scares the tempter, but as James advised, it must be preceded by submission to God. And the best way to submit to God is by the prayerful use of the word of God; this was very clear from the reaction of Jesus in the narrative. So, we understand that the resistant person will always be triumphant.

Persistence: Definitely, it takes persistence to resist the tempter. Persistence involves the ability to keep to one’s convictions despite the opposition. 

We see our Lord Jesus Christ continues to hold unto the word of God throughout the temptations without making any compromises. Writing to the Galatian (6:9), St. Paul says, “and let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”

Overcome Self: Earlier, we pointed out that the tempter’s weapon is the invasion of the “self.” This happens when the self is highlighted for highly significant even in opposition to God. All the temptations were designed to boost the self. To overcome temptation, selflessness is a dependable key. In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23-24).

The journey is still fresh, and we have ample time to set our priorities right as we journey through the Lenten period. keep in mind that God will support you in every temptation that comes your way if you invite Him (1 Cor. 10:13).

God bless you and have a blessed Lent.

Fr. Bonnie.

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