1st Sunday of Lent (Fr. Simham)
some years back we had the same readings for the Bible sharing group. And I asked them to share what they feel about today’s readings. One young man got up and said “ Father, thank God I am not the only one who is tempted. Adam was tempted and even Jesus was tempted”. How true it is my friends. Everyone of us are tempted. I think none of us can say that we are never ever tempted. If someone says so, we need to remove the statue of St.Therese of Lesiux and keep him or her there. Temptation is universal. This is the first point I want to make. Even Jesus himself was tempted. Tempted at the most vulnerable moments of his life. He fasted for forty days and forty nights and he was hungry. He was about to begin his public ministry and the task ahead of him is enormous. Satan takes this as a wonderful opportunity and starts tricking him. Tempting him. He shows him all short cuts for his life and ministry. First, turn these stones to bread and eat. Satisfy your hunger. Short cut to satisfy hunger. You need to get the attention of the people to preach the kingdom of God, the best way is jump from the temple and be unhurt. Another short cut. After all you came to gain the world for God and I will give it to you, but just bow down and worship me. Another short cut. Author of letter to the Hebrews says (Hebrews 4/15) For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
But Jesus conquers all these temptations. He did not sin. So temptation in itself is not a sin. This is the second point I want to make. Often we are worried when we get temptations that we have sinned. No temptations are not sins. Take for example: You are a diabetic patient. You cannot eat sugar of sweats. And there is a bar of chocolate on the table and no one is seeing you. You feel the strong desire and urge to take and eat it. Now, the strong urge to eat the chocolate, will it affect your health? No. Only when you give in to the urge and eat the chocolate. Your sugar level goes up and you may fall sick. So temptations in themselves are not sins.
But they are potentially harmful. They can lead you to sin. If you conquer them they will be steps in your growth to holiness. But otherwise they are potentially dangerous. That is why the tempter is a serpent in the Bible. Serpent is poisonous and harmful. It can hurt you and kill you. So also temptation can kill your life of holiness. That is why Jesus prayed in our father – Lead us not into temptation. I remember a short story to explain how temptations are harmful. It’s about a young man. He wanted to renounce the world. He went to a monastery. Met the abbot who was leading an austere life. Only two pieces of cloth to cover the waist. The Abbot left for pilgrimage so left the Young aspirant alone in the monastery. Young aspirant saw his cloak being cut by a rat. He had only two. He had to protect them. So he went to a village and got a cat to keep off the rats. Cat had to be fed with milk so he bought a cow. Cow had to be looked after so he got a wife. And wife had to be accommodated so he built a house. When the old abbot returned he found the monastery turned into flats. That is what a temptation does. It will make you to forget your very purpose of life. Mother Church gives this readings about temptation at the beginning of lent so that we may be careful with temptations. We may begin our lent with all enthusiasm giving up that or this. And do this or that. But it is forty long days. As the days pass by we find excuses to give up what we have resolved. And we may end up doing nothing at the end of the lent. So be careful and pray “Lord, lead us not into temptation.
Let me end with a Chinese proverb which refers to temptation: You can’t stop birds flying over your head but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair!
God bless you.
Fr. Showreelu Simham