“And Jesus, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.”
Did that ever seem strange to you?
Why is it that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted?
Why would the Spirit do that?
It has been a theological discussion by many biblical scholars over the years. Fundamentally, we believe that the Lord is both human and divine
and as such he was subject to all the things that humans are.
He was led into the desert to be tempted
so that we would know that he experienced temptations just like us.
And his response is a model for us to follow.
It is important not only what is said but also what is not said.
We will notice at the end of this gospel passage it says,
“And after Satan left him, the angels ministered to him.”
What it does not say is the Spirit left him.
It did not say that.
Now if the Spirit led him in and left him,
they should have said that but they did not.
As a result, we know that the Spirit was with Jesus while he was tempted.
And it is this that is important for us to grasp.
We, who are disciples of Christ, are never left alone to fight the devil.
Never. We always have this fear.
And that is falsely here.
That is what the devil wants us to think
-that it is just him and us alone.
And if we think that, we will lose every time.
We are never alone.
It is God, who accompanies us all the time
and the Spirit is with us always.
We need to listen to that Spirit and allow that Spirit to guide us
in the midst of our temptations
-in the midst of our decisions of every-day life.
So, the angels then will minister to us.
What is the devil to us?
Where is the devil tempting you and I today?
Where is the devil at work?
We do not talk about devils and demons a lot
but I think it is important to talk about evil in our life
because the devil is not just going to sit back and say,
“Oh, those people at Holy Spirit Parish.
Ah they are just too good.
I’m just going to give up.
I’ll let them be.”
Not a chance!
Here is why he will not do that
-because you have become a witness to the world
and he is going to double-down on getting us to trip up.
Why? Because if he can get good people to fall,
there won’t be a chance for those who have yet to even try.
The question is what does the devil look like in our life?
How and what way does he work?
It is important to understand where he does not work.
He is not going to give an obvious temptation like
-shall I go out and say hello to Tom-or kill him?
That just will not happen-the sin is too obvious. Right?
The devil is not going to tempt us with obvious evil. Right?
The devil tempts us not with what is good and bad
-but what is good and less good.
The way it works is really simple.
If we are doing good things,
the devil is always going to try to tempt us to do something less good;
a little less good; less good; less good; less good; less good; less good.
At the beginning we were up high but then we end up down low
and not a single step of the way
-not a single step was a noticeable step of evil.
It was just the decision between choosing the lesser of two goods.
That is how the devil works in your and my life.
So, what do we do?
We do exactly what the prescriptions of Lent are about.
We pray to turn away from sin
and to follow the gospel-to follow Christ
-to be faithful to God’s Word, God’s Will in our life.
And we do this on the Lenten journey in a special way
because we repent; we turn away; we acknowledge our sins.
Why is acknowledging our sins so important?
This is what people, who are not Catholics, have a struggle with.
Why are you Catholics so focused on sinfulness?
Because that is how the devil gets to us.
The devil gets to us through our weakest point.
Think of an army commander.
If he is going to attack a castle,
is he going to attack the front where the fortress is? No.
He is going to look around-where in the castle-is the weakest point?
Boom! That is where he is going to attack.
The devil, this ancient serpent is cunning.
He only goes after our weakest point and keeps on going until it breaks.
We need to acknowledge our sin because that is our weakest point.
That is our weak spot?
It will tell us where the devil is going to assault us.
Every one of us has a weak spot.
No one has a fortress that is so impenetrable that the devil cannot get in.
So we have to acknowledge what those are
and then we have to be attentive to it and play very carefully
-then get the help of people around us to make sure
that we strengthen that point.
When you are about to do something good,
the devil sends an assault like you would never believe.
That is the way it always works.
If you are under a particular assault
then you know you are about to do something good.
I know this first hand.
Since my decision to go away on this 30-day retreat
it has been a non-stop assault at every possible weakness point in my life.
Now my biggest one is that of, as you know, busyness.
I have gone from 10 hours to 12 hours to
14 hours to 16 hours, now 18 hours a day.
I am falling right into the trap of the devil.
And why? That is why we keep on going until we break.
That is what he is going to do to you as well.
What is our remedy?
Our remedy is to turn away from it and pray
-Lord, not my will but your Will be done.
Not on my own strength but in your strength.
Allow the Spirit to help you and to be with you in your time of temptation.
The thing about it is the devil not only uses our own weaknesses
but he uses the weakness of those around us as well.
For example, children.
Children-now let’s just be honest;
children tend to be selfish because they have not learned
the ways to be selfless yet.
They throw a little tantrum.
“I want that!”
And they get their way.
They manipulate their parents.
And they know they do it and they know they are pressing their Mum.
So Mum and Dad give into the lesser of two goods.
They are trying to train them in the right ways
but what we do is play to their weakness
and they choose the lesser of two goods.
They have become a movement of the devil against us.
But it is not only children who do this
The reality is we all do it!
We maybe throw a tantrum because we all want our way
…it’s my will, not God’s Will be done.
And we throw a little tantrum and manipulate the people around us to do
what we want them to do for us
and that is sometimes completely absent of God’s Will.
The journey of Lent is so critical for us
because we journey with these catechumens, soon to be the Elect.
We are going to send them down to the Cathedral today;
and we are going to send them to now become the Elect;
they are going to become the chosen ones to join us.
But they will be under full assault. Why?
Because what they are about to do is some awesome good in their life.
It is important for us that we not only pray with them
but that we journey with them;
that we vigilantly pray for ourselves for strength and for strength for them.
It is not about our will.
It is about God’s Will.
It is not about trying to do this on our own.
We allow the Holy Spirit to minister to us as he did to Christ in the desert
and indeed to the 40 years when he ministered
to the Israelites in their desert.
Today, we begin our Lenten journey.
Let’s take it to heart; to pray; to fast and to give alms;
to focus on doing God’s Will not my will.
May the Spirit be with us in our temptation
and do not let us give into the devil.