“Jesus was tempted, too.” I remember the first time that this reality really hit me, while reading the Gospel passage that we hear on the First Sunday of Lent. Admittedly, it was a bit of an uncomfortable thought at first, because the thought of Jesus facing temptation seemed to fly in the face of our understanding of Jesus as the sinless Son of God. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that Jesus facing temptation in his life makes perfect sense. Temptations, after all, are part of our human experience.
I think that we have a hard time thinking about the temptations of Jesus, simply because of the way we understand temptation. We view temptations as bad, and sometimes we even go so far as to think that because we were tempted, we have already fallen into sin. However, as a Priest once told me in Confession, temptations are neither good nor bad: they just are. It’s how we respond to them that determines whether or not we fall into sin.
It is this reality that prompted the author of the Letter to the Hebrews to write “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16).
During the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I will often tell people that our temptations are opportunities to turn to God in prayer, and ask for his grace to do his will, and to follow Him more faithfully. This is exactly what Jesus does, in responding to the temptations he faced in today’s Gospel. Jesus, who is both fully human and fully Divine, knows the Father’s will, and seeks to carry it out, even in the face of temptation. With God’s grace, we can gradually learn to do the same.
As we enter into this time of prayer and penance, my hope is that you will take some time to ask God how he is calling you to grow closer to him. Are there distractions in your life that can be removed so that you can better listen to His voice? Are there people you need to be reconciled with? Focus on these things, and allow God to help you make this Lent a period of fruitful spiritual growth.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB