First Sunday of Lent—10 March AD 2019
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Die Bibel in Bildern, 1860
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Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
90-Translated from the Old Latin
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert,
to be tempted by the devil.”
It is significant that in both the Latin
and Greek texts for today’s Gospel, the word for “Spirit” is capitalized:
Spíritu—with a capital “S”—in Latin and Pneumatos (Πνεύματος)—with
a capital “P”—in Greek.
The word is capitalized because it refers, not just to any spirit, but to
the Holy Spirit—the Holy Ghost—the third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
This is significant because it demonstrated that temptation is not something
sinful—indeed this episode of temptation was arranged by God Himself.
Sometimes, God arranges or allows our
temptation, as a means by which we can demonstrate our virtue and fidelity.
I used to have to fly a lot—very often on Fridays—and it always seemed that
the hot dogs roasting at the airport snack bar smelled better on
Fridays—quite likely that was an opportunity for virtue—an opportunity to
demonstrate fidelity to God by maintaining the traditional abstinence
demanded by His Church. God is pleased and rewards us whenever we are
faithful to Him in spite of sufferings and adversities.
Of course, there are also temptations to
do evil—God permits them, although they usually arise from the machinations
of the Devil, or of bad people around us, or simply from our own
concupiscence. In such temptations, we are presented with something that is
good, but in such a way that we would have to misuse it to enjoy it. All of
God’s creations are good, but they are not all intended for my personal
gratification. Everything that we enjoy must be subject to God’s Natural
Law or to His positive Commandments.
The temptation of Jesus by the Devil was
for our instruction and emulation. Notice that the Devil had nothing to
give Jesus. If Jesus were hungry, He had to turn stones into bread for
Himself—the Devil had no bread for him. Jesus was offered a form of
self-glorification by summoning the angels to protect Him from a fall from
the pinnacle of the Temple—but, again, the devil was offering nothing, for
the angels undisputedly belonged to Jesus and not to the Devil, and Jesus
had no reason to show off by demanding that His angels provide a mid-air
rescue. And, likewise “all the kingdoms of the world” already belonged to
Jesus as God, and the Devil had nothing to give Him.
It is no different with us. If we are
tempted by physical desires, or by hope of some sort of glorification, or by
the riches of the world, we must question whether or not any of these things
can legitimately be given to us by anyone who does not have title to them.
So often, the temptation to sin comes with the suggestion that we have a
right to something which we do not.
We should also be sensitive to the needs
of those less fortunate than we. I have the right to my things and the
right to enjoy them—but someone else may be in greater need of them, and we
should be willing to part with our surplus. At the end of Saint Matthew’s
Gospel, Jesus tells us that in providing for the hungry, the sick, the naked
and the thirsty, we are providing for Him and will be rewarded. But if we
fail to do so, we will be told: “Amen I say to you, as long as you did not
do it for one of these least [of My brethren], neither did you do it for
Me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life
But getting back to temptation to do
evil—we might ask ourselves how it can be avoided. Unquestionably, humility
is at the heart of it. The proud man thinks he has greater rights than
everyone around him. You can hear him thinking: “I am so important that I
have a right to my neighbor’s property—I have the right to take his car, his
wallet, his watch, his wife, and maybe even his life. And I owe him
nothing, no matter how poor he is … no matter how rich I may be … for I am
more important than others.”
Humility comes from the realistic
assessment of my strengths and weaknesses—a realistic comparison of
my rights and my neighbors’ rights. Humility comes from the veneration of
Jesus Christ, who realistically is entitled to everything but
who did with so little. And veneration of His Blessed Virgin Mother, who
offered her Son for our salvation. Humility, therefore, is essential to
When we are tempted, we should call upon
Jesus and Mary, our guardian angel and our patron saints. Make good use of
the Sacramentals—holy water, the Rosary, Scapular, and Miraculous Medal, to
name a few. Always be conscious of the fact that everything we do is done
in the Holy Presence of God—and that should make us very embarrassed to do
anything sinful. Frequently consider the rewards of heaven and the pains of
hell. Avoid those persons, places, and things which often cause us to sin.
Make a frequent examination of conscience and a frequent Sacramental
Confession of your sins.
Remember that temptation is not sin—and,
indeed will be a source of great merit if we respond in accordance with
“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the
desert, to be tempted by the devil.” and Jesus should be the inspiration for
successfully overcoming our own temptations!