Photo illustration by Phil Younk
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Based on the Gospel of Matthew 4:1-11

Three steadfast refusals to give into temptation! Following his baptism by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert for 40 days to pray to God the Father and to fast (to eat little or nothing) before he begins his public ministry.

While Jesus is in the desert, the devil tempts him in three ways. First, he knows Jesus is hungry so he tells Jesus to turn the stones into bread. Jesus refuses. Next, he takes Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem and tells him to throw himself down because God will save him. Again, Jesus refuses. Finally, he shows Jesus all the world’s kingdoms and tells Jesus he will give him power over all these kingdoms if Jesus will worship him. Once again, Jesus refuses and says, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” The devil leaves him and angels come and minister to Jesus. Thus, Jesus overcomes the temptations to abuse his power, even to prove that he is the Son of God.

The readings for this First Sunday of Lent give us a short history of temptation and sin. In the first reading from Genesis, Adam and Eve failed terribly when faced with temptation and sin and ended up exiled from the Garden of Eden. Our lives are constantly plagued by the effects of that original sin. In the Gospel, Jesus faced temptation and triumphed in resisting the devil’s ploys. His victory in the desert wilderness was just a foretaste of the victory Jesus would win for us on the cross.

In the second reading, St. Paul assures us: “Just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to call.”

Lent has begun – 40 days to prepare our hearts for Jesus and Easter – time for more prayer, growth in learning about Jesus, sacrifice and unselfish sharing of Jesus’ love with others. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Lenten message for 2011, calls for a renunciation of selfishness.

Start with prayer. Make your own symbolic desert by putting some sand and small stones in a bowl and placing it in your prayer space at home. During Lent spend more time with Jesus in your “desert” prayer space.