Scripture Readings, Feb. 26, 2023

Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-17

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

In the readings of the first Sunday of Lent, we hear two related but different responses to the temptations of the prince of lies, the devil. In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we hear about the fall into temptation of Adam and Eve, how sin enters the world, and therefore the need for our Savior. Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God comes in contrast to the obedience of Jesus. Our Lord did not fall into the temptations presented by the devil.

What is temptation? It is understood as the enticement of a person to commit sin by offering some seeming advantage. Biblically speaking, we can recognize that the source of temptation is Satan and he uses the world and the weaknesses of our flesh against us. “No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God;’ for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) We are exposed to temptations in every state, in every place and in every time.

Sometimes we think these temptations were the only ones experienced by Jesus, but Christ was tempted on other occasions in other ways, as would seem evident from Luke 22:28: “It is you who have stood by me in my trials,” and Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Maybe we downplay the temptations Jesus experienced because he is God. So let us answer these questions: How could Jesus, the Sinless One, be tempted? Did the temptation imply in any way the possibility of his falling into sin? Temptation doesn’t necessarily imply a sinful nature on the part of the one tempted. Adam and Eve were created in “the image and likeness of God” without sin, but they were tempted and unfortunately fell into sin. Hebrews 4:15 teaches us that Jesus not only successfully resisted temptation but he remained sinless. To the second question, Jan Jacob van Oosterzee says, “The sinlessness of our Lord is to be regarded as an attribute of his true humanity, and thus to be clearly distinguished from the absolute holiness of him who cannot even be tempted of evil. The moral purity of the Lord did not in itself exclude even the least possibility of sinning. Had such possibility been absolutely wanting, the former would, even in the Son of Man, have lost all moral worth. The great thing here is precisely this: he who was exposed to the severest temptation, ever so maintained the dominion over himself that it could be said of him, he was able not to sin, ‘potuit non peccare.’ As a result of a sustained conflict, he so perfectly vanquished the power of evil that sinning became for him morally an absolute impossibility; in other words, the ‘potuit non peccare’ was ever more raised to a ‘potuit non peccare.’ He could not sin.”

I think this is the greatest example that Jesus has given us: when we are tempted, we are able to not fall into temptation. It is possible to live a sinless life. For a lot of us, it may seem like a huge impossibility to not sin. A few weeks ago, I visited our confirmation candidates as they shared in small groups. In one of the groups, a young man was talking about the “reality” that we will all sin at some point. I was telling him that actually, by the grace of God, we can live a sinless life. The young man was very convinced that there was no way we won’t sin. I was having a hard time helping him to believe in the possibility of not falling into temptation because I still fall into temptation and need to constantly turn to our merciful Lord for his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I want to repeat that there is a real possible way to live a life without sin. We don’t sin because we are humans; we fall into sin because we are sinners. Jesus gave us the example that humans can say no to sin. Many saints can testify to that life of holiness.

Jesus totally understands how difficult it is to resist temptation; that is why he always waits for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to forgive us and to give us all the graces we need to keep fighting against the devil, who only is looking for our destruction.

The following is a prayer for resisting temptation:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I try hard not to stumble in my walk of faith, but you know the temptations that I face today. I experience desires that lead me away from you. Sometimes the temptation seems too strong for me. The desires seem too powerful to resist.

I need your help in this battle. I cannot walk alone, Lord. I need your guidance. My flesh is weak. Please help me. Fill me with the power of your Holy Spirit to give me strength. I cannot make it without you.

Your Word promises that I will not be tempted beyond what I can bear. I ask for your strength to stand up against temptation each and every time I encounter it.

Help me to stay awake spiritually so that temptation won’t catch me by surprise. I want to always pray so that I won’t be dragged away by evil desires. Help me keep my spirit well fed with your holy Word and the Eucharist so that I remember you are living in me, and you are greater than every power of darkness and sin that is in the world.

Lord, you overcame Satan’s temptations. You understand my struggle. So I ask for the strength you had when facing Satan’s attacks in the wilderness. Don’t let me be dragged away by my own desires. Let my heart obey your Word.

Your Word also tells me you will provide a way of escape from temptation. Please, Lord, give me the wisdom to walk away when I am tempted, and the clarity to see the way out that you will provide. Thank you, Lord, that you are a faithful deliverer and that I can count on your help in my time of need.