Today’s readings provides us with a short lesson on salvation history. In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, we have a description of how humanity came to be; how God brought about the parents. And how he blessed them with a paradise, a wondrous garden that would provide for their every need. So what happened? They messed up, that is what happened! They gave into temptation to want more, disobeying God and resulting in humanity losing Paradise!
But the Father was not going to abandon us. He set into motion those events, that would lead eventually to the birth of a savior; God’s own Son, Jesus. We have read and have celebrated what follows; Jesus comes to the Jordan River, is baptized by John the Baptist; the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and the Father declaring that Jesus is His Son. In today’s Gospel, continuation of Matthew, we see that Jesus was lead by the Spirit into the desert.
Now, in preparation for this homily, I came across a painting that illustrates what we have just heard in the Gospel reading. The title of the painting is “Christ in the Desert.” It was painted in 1872, by a Russian painter, whose name was Ivan Kramskoi. It portrays Jesus at the end of his forty days fast; he is seating on a rocky hill. We see him worn out by the ordeal, and we know that the devil is coming soon. Or maybe he already there, invisible, but already tempting Jesus, whispering in his ear; pushing him hard to give in, to surrender to the Evil One, to screw up like Adam and Eve did. However, Jesus holds true. Jesus overcomes the Tempter.
Fast forward to today; to us hearing this Gospel; it calls us to reflect on those times we have been tempted, and how hard it is for us to resist; and whether we either succeed is resisting temptation, or not. Call him “Evil,” “the Devil,” “the Tempter,” or “Mr. Scratch,” he is out there. And by every subtle means, he is always trying to trip us up. And let’s be honest with ourselves, sometimes we do!
However, we have a companion who is with us, who is always walking with us! And he has showed us how to deal with temptation, by turning to Scripture, reflecting on the Good News that God is there with us, strengthening us. We are to pray; seeking the help of our Heavenly Father, to overcome the temptation to sin. Now sometimes, we do fail; sometimes, we do not follow the teachings of Jesus as we are called to do. It is moments like that, when we should turn to the Sacrament of reconciliation; to heal our soul, and be strengthened to resist sin.
So this Lent, let us reflect on how well, or not; we have tried to live the Gospel life . And then rededicate ourselves to following Jesus, more closely, more intensely; during the time of Lent, and for all time.