Beware the Tempter
(1st Sunday of Lent: Genesis 2:7-9 & 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11)
When the celebrant washes his hands at the end of the offertory, he says, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” As he is about to enter into the most sacred part of the Mass, he is reminded of his unworthiness to do so, both personally and as a mere human being.
The same thought is expressed in today’s Psalm, but is balanced, if you will, by the last verse: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” By God’s grace, our sinfulness is not an insurmountable obstacle to sincere worship.
St. Paul reminds us that “all sinned” when “through one man sin entered the world;” but that was not the end of the story. Acquittal has come through Christ. The Author of Life, who “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,” sent his Son Jesus to restore life.
But before entering fully upon his mission, Jesus was tempted. We can easily identify with this experience.
He triumphed over the Tempter, but let us not suppose that he was not really tempted. Jesus was truly human, and surely knew the appeal of easy gratification of his needs, of proof that God was watching over him, of royal power.
When we acknowledge our sins, we recognize the temptations to which we have succumbed. Or, as at La Salette, someone else may point out the ways in which we have yielded to the Tempter.
The Beautiful Lady spoke of the following offenses: abuse of her Son’s Name; working on the Lord’s Day; neglecting the Eucharist; going to the butcher shops, “like the dogs,” in Lent. What is the underlying temptation common to all of these?
The answer can be found in Jeremiah 2:20: “Long ago you broke your yoke, you tore off your bonds. You said, ‘I will not serve.’” Jesus’ responses to the Tempter are a declaration of his desire to obey the Father alone. “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
That is the model of how to resist temptation. But don’t wait till the temptation comes. Resist it in advance. Always beware the Tempter.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse