Today’s Gospel is a very concise teaching of the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. Today's Gospel readings about the Temptations of Jesus give us insight into ourselves. They are the same Temptations of Adam and Eve, and the same temptations which we face every day. Little by little our resolve is worn down, and we begin to accept what once we so vehemently objected too.
First, we have to wonder why the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the desert to be tempted. God was preparing him for the crucifixion. It is important in our lives to be able to withstand temptation. It is important and critical that we continue to grow in faith so that we may withstand temptation.
Jesus was worth was faced with three critical temptations.
First- if you are the son of God- Satan directly attacks Jesus for who he is- just like the Devil may attack us, if you are a disciple of Jesus, then command this stone to become bread. We would all like that because we all like to eat. We are all concerned about our diet; what we eat. Jesus’ answer to that is that you cannot live on bread alone- you need a spiritual life as well as you do a physical life. We need to be as hungry for a spiritual life as we are for the food that we eat. We don't want to go hungry physically, and we shouldn't want to go hungry spiritually. Jesus Christ gives us the bread of life. Why does God ask us to go to mass every week? Because we need that encouragement, we need to be fed; we need to be able to withstand the temptations that come to us every day. When we are hungry for spiritual life, and we seek Christ, then we will have a balance in our lives.
The second temptation. The devil takes Jesus up to the parapet of the Temple and says, “ I shall give to you all this power and Glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.” what a lie! The devil was trying to deceive Jesus. The devil had no power to give, and he had no authority to give it, and yet the devil speaks to deceive us because we all want power and glory. We want our 15 minutes of fame. We want the euphoria that comes from having power.
Satan tried to deceive Jesus just like he deceived Eve. You know the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, which in the middle of the garden. Adam and Eve had to pass it every day and maybe for 200 years. They went past it, and the serpent didn't just deceive Eve once, he had to build it up so they gradually. Eve learned to distrust God. Satan said God doesn't want you to be like him. Satan had no power and authority to give, but over time convinced Eve that she would be better off rejecting God. The current day temptation is drugs.
Yesterday on Saturday I had the funeral of a 33-year-old young man, a graduate of a prominent Catholic High School, who died of an overdose. Ten days ago, on a Thursday evening, I was on my way back from a meeting in Towson I received a call from Ray whom I have known for three years, and I could hear his mother crying in the background. I said, “what happened?” He said, “I don't know, but something horrible has happened to Steve.” I said I'll be right over. I went to the house, and I learned that they had received a call from a Good Samaritan Hospital emergency room. “I think we have someone here whom you may know.” “he was brought in by ambulance and has passed away.” This is the phone call everyone dreads. No one wants to receive this phone call. After I went over the house, we went to Good Samaritan to identify the body. Walking in the emergency room, I saw a string tied around his toe with a tag which had Steve's name. There was great sorrow. Steve had been addicted to drugs. He graduated from high school and went to a military academy. In his sophomore year at the military academy, he was in a motorcycle accident and was given Oxycontin. From then on, it was pot, alcohol and eventually heroin. No one wakes up one day and says I want to be in the addict. Gradually your resistance winds down, and you begin to believe that what was once wrong is now right. It is the ultimate deception.
Yesterday, Saturday, I did the funeral for Steve at Saint Michael the Archangel Church on Belair Road. When I went into the emergency room to identify Steve's body, I was comforted by a few things. First, the one who gave him the drugs used his cell to call 911 or else we would have never been able to find him. I also knew that he had gone to St. Michael’s Elementary School where he was baptized. He received his first communion and was Confirmed there. I knew that because he had gone to Catholic School, that he said at least one “Hail Mary” and that in the Hail Mary we as “ pray for me now and at the hour of my death.” This is not just an idle prayer. It is Mary's promise that she will be there at the hour of our death, and why is she there? She is praying to God to save him. Jesus never refuses the prayer of his mother.
I also knew that Steve had gone to St. Michael's and that he had attended Mass, and part of the mass we say, “ Lord I am not worthy then you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” This is the only time at mass; we pray that our souls be healed.
The second reading today says you must confess with your lips that Jesus is the son of God and believe it in your heart. I knew that Steve had said the Creed. These prayers we say at mass are important because we never know the hour of our death.
The third temptation: the devil says, “if you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here.” Jesus's response is, “you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Do we ever put to God to the test? All the time. It is our human nature, and we want to try to get by with as little as possible. How often do we come to church thinking that we are here to satisfy an obligation, and leave without talking to anyone? We put God to the test. How often do we come into the church and decide not to sing or participate at the mass? We put God to the test. How many times have we said that we will come to mass prepared to read the readings ahead of time, but don’t. We put God to the test. It's not unusual as a child to want to know what we can get away with. we do the same thing in our spiritual lives. We wonder how far we can go, or what we can get away with, and if we remain a child spiritually, we will be trying to get away with the least possible. It doesn't work.
Jesus was tempted in order to prepare him for the cross. There will come a time when he will receive the ultimate temptation: “if you are the son of God, then come down from the cross.” Jesus did not come down from the cross because he loves us, and he was able to resist the temptation. Jesus loves us and wants us to resist temptation. We come here together to strengthen us for the temptations that we will face during the week- to be able to be faithful to God; to be able to resist the constant temptation that we encounter.
Jesus is there to protect us, to give us the strength to be able to strengthen our relationships with Christ and with one another.