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1st Sunday in Lent

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him..'" Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Introductory Prayer:Lord Jesus, as I embark upon my Lenten journey, you invite me to follow your footsteps through the desert. I believe you are the Way, and I want to imitate your example of prayer and sacrifice to purify my heart and become exclusively yours. I hope in you for the strength I need to I confront the difficult temptations that arise from the devil, the world and my own selfishness. I love you for doing all for me.

Petition: Lord, strengthen my attempts at prayer and sacrifice to find there the power to follow you faithfully. At the end of the forty days of Lent days may I be closer to you and more decided to follow you, and more accepting of the cross in my life.

1. Led by the Spirit to be tempted. In this Gospel passage, Jesus gives us a supreme example in how to follow God's will. His attention was entirely focused on listening to the Holy Spirit and following his lead, even when this brought him out to the desert for the purpose of being tempted. We never see Jesus saying, “what about me?” not even in Gethsemane. Jesus doesn’t shirk work or toil, he never goes back on his word or sidesteps the consequences of his love for us. So the Spirit always finds him willing and ready for whatever the Father wants. It is worth spending some time, maybe even a long time, comparing Jesus' way with my own; asking if I always hear God's voice calling or if it is drowned out by distractions, friends and my personal preferences; asking too how I respond when I do hear God but he seems to be asking something altogether difficult….

The difficulty in following the Holy Spirit comes from the fact that to do so we have to learn to put ourselves in second place and God in first. The great thing is, this difficulty can actually draw us closer to Christ. By contemplating him, we grow in our admiration for him and we discover where our source of strength is, not in ourselves but in him. Our admiration helps us love him more and sets an example for us to follow, and ideal to strive for. But there is even more, by his fidelity in temptation he has gained us the grace we need in our times of difficulty, and when I strive to be faithful I am actually walking in his footsteps.

2. "One does not live by bread alone." The clarity of his priorities helps Jesus to overcome temptation. They are not merely intellectual priorities either, they stem from his heart, and that is their power. He knows there is another and deeper meaning to life than the material reality he touches and feels. He sees beyond his personal needs, his physical hunger. He actually has a deeper hunger rooted in his heart, a passionate hunger that makes every other consideration irrelevant—our salvation. His priority in making choices is eternity, his mission as my Redeemer, and not temporal considerations dictated by the material appetites that were part and parcel of his human nature, just as they are of ours.

There are two dimensions to life: our life here that depends completely on "bread" and our life in eternity, for which we need another food, "the Father's will." So bread alone will not suffice, at times it will have to be set aside for the food that gives eternal life. We have to learn to set our hearts on eternal life, so as to use every moment of this life to take another step toward it and not away from it, often giving up material goods for spiritual goods, like when we fast and do penance in Lent. If we continually look at Christ we will be less afraid to leave anything behind to follow after him.

3. Away with you! This is how Jesus deals with the devil's lies. He does not dally with temptation or become fascinated with the devil's empty promises. His response is immediate, certain and passionate, so different from what ours tends to be. There is obviously something he knows that we don't, and therefore we need to learn from him.

His reaction stems from his intimate love for his Father nourished in a close and filial relationship with him. Jesus only wants to please his Father and will have no place for any suggestion that might interfere with this love. Our relationship with God grows stronger and deeper every time we reject something contrary to it, and when we confront temptation and overcome it. As we grow closer to him we learn to recognize temptation and avoid it immediately. Temptation often disheartens us, but in reality “Temptation” has “Opportunity” written all over it: opportunity to imitate him, opportunity to cement our progress, opportunity to gain graces for souls, to make up for our own past faults, and an opportunity to witness to our own option for Christ as in, “Sorry, guys, I’m not going to that movie…”.

But one of the greatest temptations and perhaps the easiest to fall into is omission, passivity in our Christian life, the good left undone. Let us pray to Christ that we will be strong and clear in discovering the presence of this temptation in our lives, and overcome it.

Conversation: Lord Jesus, your clarity, decision and fidelity inspires me. I would like to be as firm and as strong. I would like to love as sincerely. That is what love is truly about, strength, fidelity, perseverance, dependability. I want to rise above my self-centeredness, but I don't always manage to. I need to let your strength and your love come into my mind, my heart and my soul. I know also that my true happiness lies in learning to do your will out of love. Grant me today to hear your voice more clearly, and the love to follow it.


1. What interferes with my hearing God's voice in my life: friends, media, internet, not enough time for prayer? Am I strong enough to do what Jesus would?

2. How much does the thought that I am made for eternity and heaven influence my choices and my use of time?

3. How quickly do I reject temptation when it comes?

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