Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Tim’s mom caught him stealing chocolate from a container and confronted him for stealing against her instructions. Crying, he began explaining to his mother, “Mom, I was minding my business when my eyes started going to the container, and before I knew it, my legs moved to the container, and my hands took some chocolate, and that was when you showed up.”
Tim’s mom was confused by this incredible explanation as she wondered if her son’s eyes, legs, and hands were different entities. Tim was blaming his actions on something other than himself, and we are not so different from him; there is always something or someone to blame for our failures. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. So often we forget that sin is the consequence of a choice to yield to temptation.
The First Sunday of Lent intentionally presents us with the first recorded events of temptation by the devil in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The First Reading (Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7) tells us about the temptation that led to the first sin of disobedience.
In the narrative, the devil approached Eve as a serpent and asked if God really said they should not eat any of the trees in the garden. Eve explained that they could eat all except the one in the middle of the garden, as they shall die the day they ate or even touched it.
The conversation could have ended there, but this is where the temptation really started. The tempter replies to Eve, “you will not die. God knows that the moment you eat, your eyes will open, and you will be like gods knowing what is good and evil”.
What the devil tries to achieve here is to raise doubts and curiosity in Eve’s mind to the end that she disobeys God, and she does alongside Adam. So quickly, we can define temptation as the enticement to make a choice that contradicts God’s will or instruction.
The Temptation of Jesus
Some people need clarification about how Jesus could be tempted since he did not share in the original sin that defected our human nature. We can find this clarification in the human nature of Adam and Eve before the Fall, which was sinless. It is clear then that the human nature of Jesus, of course, Mary was the same Adam and Eve had before the Fall, part of the reason Jesus is called the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45).
The Gospel Reading (Matt. 4:1-11) tells us that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit (after his baptism) to the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and nights, and afterward, he was hungry, and the devil came to tempt him. We shall examine the threefold temptations of our Lord Jesus Christ and relate them to our lives in the context of our Lenten journey.
“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Notice here that the first temptation of Jesus was about eating, just like the temptation that led Adam and Eve to the sin of disobedience. The devil will always come up with what you desire to tempt you.
The passage tells us that Jesus was hungry, so the devil suggested that he abuse his power as the son of God to satisfy his natural desire. Note that hunger is not restricted to physical food; it has other dimensions that seek satisfaction.
To this temptation, Jesus says, “it is written one does not live on bread alone but every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Jesus was saying, in other words, that we should eat just anything because we are hungry. God’s words should guide every choice we make.
“If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands, they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Notice that the devil challenges Jesus again by calling him “the Son of God.” Your title or description could be a trap if you allow it to get into your head.
Significant here is that the devil quotes a good scripture for a bad intention; yes, the devil knows the scriptures! He wanted Jesus to presume God’s words and challenge His ability to fulfill them. Jesus responded by reminding the devil of another scripture, “you shall not put the Lord to the test (Deut. 6:16).
“All these I shall give to you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Deception or lie is one of the devil’s weapons, and he uses it in this section of the temptation; there is no free gift with the devil. What he wanted here was worship, in other words, submissive attention. The enticement to worship the devil through the things in the world is even more evident in our times.
Our Lord Jesus Christ responds to this third temptation with a rebuke backed by a powerful scripture that closed the case, “the Lord your God shall you worship, and him alone shall you serve.” (Deut. 6:13-15).
How to Overcome Temptation: From our Lord’s encounter with the devil, we can determine how to overcome the devil’s temptations. One word that captures how we can wrestle with temptation is resistance. St. James says, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). Let us look at how to resist the devil in what follows.
Be Ready for Temptation: Nobody is beyond temptations. What happens in life is that the object of your temptation will change as you grow and develop. Expect a new dimension of temptation at every new level in your life. St. Pater would urge us to be calm but vigilant (1 Peter 5:8).
Rebuke with the Word of God: Notice that in the encounter, our Lord Jesus Christ continues started and ended with the scriptures “it is written.” That was the only way he could rebuke the devil. Notice that we did not bargain or explain things away like Eve; He did not give that chance. But you can only use the Word of God if you don’t know it, so always read the Bible and understand what is written. The word of God is something alive and active, the sword of the spirit (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17).
Consider the Long-Term Consequences, not the Short-Term Satisfaction: If you can ask yourself, “what do I stand to gain after?” you will save yourself from frequently yielding to temptation. A five-minute sin can lead to lifetime negative consequences. It is not about what you gain now but what you may lose afterward.
Flee from the Source of the Temptation: One mistake you may make in life is to argue with the devil without the authority of the word of God. The best thing you can do for yourself is to run, not make statements. It is not a weakness to run but spiritual intelligence. Joseph did it with Potiphar’s wife; he left his cloak in her hands and fled instead of his body (Genesis 39:12).
Moving Forward: You Can Be Tempted, But Do Not Give the Devil A Chance
We must know that we all can be tempted. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not just tempted three times. The Letter to the Hebrews (4:15) says that he was tempted in every way but did not sin. Only the dead are immune from temptation.
Armed with this information, we should always be ready and not give the devil a chance because that is exactly what he wants (Eph. 4:27). You cannot stop temptation, but you can resist with the grace that comes from God’s throne and which never fails those who ask. God bless you.