6 March 2022 at Saint William Catholic Church in Naples, FL
Micah 5, 1-4 + Psalm 80 + Hebrews 10, 5-10 + Luke 3, 10-18
There is always a risk when we think of Jesus. It is the risk of magnifying his Divine Nature at the cost of his Human Nature. It is serious risk because it mutes the very revelation his incarnation provides for us. That man in the desert, a man baptized and called Son of God was a real human being. What he experienced in the desert was a real temptation no different at all from the kinds of temptations you and I face every day of our lives. Baptism does not keep any of us from temptations. Being children of God provides no safeguard from temptations if you forget who you are. What Luke provides for us in these verses is a look at what Jesus did in the face of temptation so that we might do the same.
Luke implies that the struggle Jesus had to understand and live the vocation of being “Son of God”was both unique to him and applicable to every one of us who are also “Children of God.” What we hear of in these verses is a mighty struggle on the part of Jesus to live as a faithful Son of God. That is the great challenge all of us face day in and day out; to live as Children of God. The temptation that Jesus faces, and so do we all, is the temptation to put self-preservation ahead of everything else. Thinking that he must take care of himself rather than trust in the loving care of his Father. Jesus knew how to prioritize his needs and wants by placing the Will of God before his own because he was the Son of a loving and provident God.
The devil’s bargain offering Jesus all the kingdoms of the world implied that he would rule as did all the rulers of the day with power and fear believing that being mighty is all there is because “might is right.” Being “Number One” in that thinking is all that matters regardless of what or who you step on, oppress or dismiss to come out on top. That is not the way God works, and neither do his children.
The clever thing about these temptations is that they always seem like good ideas at the time. Satan is a master at disguise slick like fake news, subtler than ads that suggest love comes from having the right car or the right skin. Why not change stones into bread when you’re hungry? What will it hurt? Why not eat that apple if it’s going to make you wise? It’s the easy way. Why not cheat a little here or there? No one’s getting hurt?
Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke reminds us at the end that temptation is not a one-time event. Luke gives us a Jesus who, in the face of every temptation, knows that the challenge is to always remember and remain a child of God. That is what Jesus did and we must do the same. As this reality came to me preparing for this moment, I suddenly remembered something my father would often say to me when I would get out of the car at school and even more often when I began to drive. “Don’t forget who you are”, he would say. What lies at the root of every temptation becoming the cause of all our sins and failures? The failure to remember. Remembering who we are might be what this Lent is all about as we grow in wisdom and grace to face every temptation that comes at us again and again.