Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Jesus said: Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’
It is a fact of the human condition that we are daily confronted with the issue of temptation. We convince ourselves that these temptations are inconsequential because they will not cause harm to ourselves, or to anyone else. However, allowing ourselves to follow the path of temptation, no matter how ‘inconsequential’ we may consider it to be, is to step out onto a dangerous path.
If we reflect upon the temptations to which we so readily succumb we will notice that each one brings us some sort of earthly reward. If we over-indulge in food and drink we will have a level of satisfaction that is not enjoyed by the majority of people in this world. If we break the speed limit when we are driving we will have the satisfaction of arriving at our destination earlier, but we may also have endangered the lives of others. If we spread falsehoods about others we may well improve our own status in the eyes of our friends, but what about the harm that is being done to those who are innocent?
Every time we succumb to the temptations that we encounter in our daily lives, and every time we chase the superficial reward that we seek in our weakness and sinfulness, we are distancing ourselves from the God who loves us, and who made us in his own image. In fact, we are engaging in an act of betrayal … just like those in the crowd who screamed for Jesus’ crucifixion.
At the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry he journeyed into the wilderness. For forty days he lived alone during a time of prayerful preparation and dedication. As those challenging days passed Jesus, like us, found himself tempted to stray from the path that lay before him. The devil offered him sustenance and power. But, Jesus stood firm. The devil even tried to increase the pressure on the fasting Jesus by selectively quoting scripture at him. But, Jesus stood firm.
The notion of the devil seems archaic in our modern times, but the devil (the power of evil) is constantly in our midst. Every time our resolve to follow God’s path is undermined, it is the work of the devil. Every time we allow ourselves to be distracted and diverted from the path of righteousness, it is the work of the devil. Today we are called to remain alert. Today we are called to join Jesus in resisting the temptations of this world as we join him in saying: Away with you, Satan! Today we are called to heed Jesus’ words and: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.