The First Sunday in Lent
18 February 2018 At Saint Peter and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Genesis 9, 8-15 + Psalm 25 + 1 Peter 3, 18-22 + Mark 1, 12-15
It’s time to give some thought to the matter of Temptations says the Church on Lent’s first Sunday. Most people believe that “temptation” is the enticing of a person to do wrong. When most people think of “temptation” they think of evil, but that can’t be right, because something good can lead us astray just as much as something bad. The strength of temptation is always in direct proportion to the attractiveness of the goal. In other words, when the goal is really desired, temptations are just as great. We can fail to reach a goal when the path is simple just as much as when it is really tough. In fact, sometimes it is risky when the path is easy because we can get distracted by all kinds of fun things and forget the goal and waste a lot time. Earthly food dulls the appetite for heavenly food. Just look at the well-fed western world adrift in secularism and self-pleasure while the hungry of this world grow stronger in faith.
The scriptures are full of stories that illustrate this. Think of that rich young man invited to become a disciple. He goes away sad not because he did something evil, but because he had great wealth. There is nothing bad about great wealth. Good things can become temptations. Jesus goes to the house of Martha and Mary. Martha is too anxious and busy to listen to Jesus. Her concern for hospitality, which is good, distracts her from listening to Jesus. Those people invited to a banquet had all kinds of good reasons for not coming. Good reasons, good things to do, but they become temptations that lead them away from the banquet.
The truth is, we have as much to fear from good things as we do from bad. In fact, maybe more. When we see something that is really evil we turn away. The things that keep us from our goal are most often good things which is why they are so hard to resist. Most of the time in our lives, our choices are not between what is good or bad; but rather what is good and what is best. The devil hardly ever looks like an enemy or some frightening beast. My experience is that most often the devil seems attractive and charming; sometimes like a friend who has our best interests at heart. In this season, we must look for and pray for the wisdom and strength to resist these kinds of temptations; especially those that look good. When the choice is between the good and the best, we know what we much choose.