Temptations are necessary doors to life…choose death, or sacrifice & struggle to find happiness
One Commentator on this Gospel compared the different Writers on the same passage of text: he noted that Luke says the Spirit leads Jesus IN the desert, while Matthew says the Spirit led Jesus INTO the desert.
The context is also very important: Jesus is about to start His public ministry. We tend to forget that Jesus was fully human. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to change direction in his life: family issues, a young man in the prime of his life: he could go anywhere and do anything. But he chose to be obedient to the call of God the Father.
Why should we assume it was easy to make the change? Especially when there was no seminary to give him training. I took 5 yrs of wrestling with God & myself to leave work and join the Missionary Oblates: then 6 years of training. (please don’t blame my Formators! Ha, ha)
The difference between Matthew and Luke sound like a small point, but both of them are correct, and a necessary part of all our lives:
- Jesus was led INTO the desert for a period of discernment: we should not assume that Jesus knew the Devil would be tempting him. Before any big decision most sensible people go off by themselves and reflect about their decisions. The devil always meets us at decision times.
How many mums and dads have to push their children into the world to go and do something: to leave the security and comforts of home: the parents know they will be tempted to be naughty, and pray they’ll remember their training from home: morally and socially.
Are parents guilty of leading their children into temptation? No. It’s called helping them to grow up and take responsibility for themselves and their community.
- Jesus was accompanied by the Spirit while IN the desert. God never abandons us, especially when times are difficult. But God, also, does not do everything for us, otherwise we never grow up or develop a strong sense of pride in ourselves (self-worth/ self-esteem, etc.)
I recall the story of a wealthy man who wished his son to take over his business: he asked his son to earn $10,000 so he could buy a portion of the company. As he shared this with his mother, she gave him the money and the son visited his father that night. The father took the money and threw it in the fire. The son just stood speechless, as his father sent him to try again.
This time the son went to the bank and borrowed $10,000. Again, his father threw it in the fire. Again, the son just watched it burn, realising he would have to earn the money properly. He sweated and sacrificed sleep and socialising and eventually he earned $10,000. Again, his father threw the money into the fire. But, this time, the son dived to the floor and started pulling it out of the fire, burning his fingers as he did so and yelling angrily at his father.
The father smiled and said, “you have really worked for that money. Now you are welcome to join me at the business.” When we receive without contributing, we value less what we have.
When we feel called to major life changes (eg. marriage), there will always be a voice telling us: you will not make it; you should stay as you are and enjoy yourself, etc. These are the voices of fear and our desire for “ease” and “comfort” for today. We can easily forget about tomorrow. Hence, many people struggle to start a family at age 40 or later: time has run out.
Sadly, we can expect many lonely elderly people in the future, because they have taken short-term comfort and pleasure over the need to make sacrifices for a happy future.
We all want to be happy: that’s normal. But lasting happiness only comes after we grow up and be responsible for ourselves AND for our local communities. Sadly, the culture of independence and self-interest is infecting our world worse than the corona virus.
Many parents are unsure how to guide their children; the media send many self-centred messages & temptations to our youth: they struggle to overcome because ‘everyone’ is doing it.
And, because of the promotion of individualism, how many people, especially our youth, lose hope in the world and struggle to find meaning in life?
This Lent, I believe God is inviting us to face our demons and make sacrifices to move out of our comfort zones: not only to help our community, but also to help us to grow up so we can fully embrace our humanity for a happier life. Secondly, those in authority are also encouraged to be “tough” with those they supervise, helping to push them into a greater maturity in life.
Remember, God will never leave you alone: we pray for the wisdom to recognise God’s gentle instructions to encourage us on the way.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI