The Temptations of Jesus
I love "The Temptations." Yes, you read me correctly. I am a fan of The Temptations, an R&B musical band from Michigan. To be precise, I love their brand of soul songs not only because I consider one of their well-known songs, "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," a secular version of Solomon's Song of Songs. Also, I am fascinated by the band's name without the article "the": Temptation. Why would I love temptations? Who loves to be tempted? We have all been tempted to do what we know we should not do, and as Christ's Faithfuls, we often wish we did not have to go through temptations and pray against falling into them when we say the Lord's Prayer. Yet, I love temptations for this reason: Jesus Christ was tempted by Satan in the desert. Jesus' temptations in the wilderness after fasting for forty days and his victory over them cast my daily temptations in a new light. Temptation is a test of my love for God, and I love the fact that Jesus was tempted and successfully resisted his temptations which helps me see that my temptations are opportunities for me to live in the light and power of Jesus Christ. Temptations and victory over them are indications of God's sufficient grace in bearing testimony to our love for him over anything he created.
Jesus was tempted. Like us, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the incarnate God experienced temptations. He was not only tempted at the end of his fasting and prayer but also at other times. We recall, for instance, his agony in the garden of Gethsemane when thoughts that were against God's will passed through his mind (Matthew 26: 36-56). Jesus' temptation offers us an excellent place to begin our lent. Many of us fasted and abstained from meat on Ash Wednesday, not without temptations. We are often more prone to temptations when we are weak. We are bombarded with thoughts and situations that threaten our will and resolution to make sacrifices in the biblical way to aid our spiritual campaign and conversion to God.
Why did Jesus allow himself to be tempted? What are the lessons to be drawn from his temptation in the desert? When his fasting and prayers were over, the gospel, according to Luke 4: 1-13, tells us that the devil tempted Jesus in the areas of hunger, worship, and power. So how does Jesus' experience of temptations instruct us on how to face and overcome our temptations to sin? According to St. Thomas Aquinas in part 3, Question 41 of his Summa Theologica, there are four related reasons and lessons derived from Jesus' temptation:
1. His temptation strengthens us against the temptations that will inevitably assail us post-baptism.
2. By his temptations, he lets us know that no matter how holy and pious you are, a Christian will never be spared the hardship of temptations.
3. He makes himself a mediator in overcoming our temptations by providing us with his example.
4. Jesus' temptation was aimed to "fill us with confidence in His mercy."
How do you fight temptations? Will you commit more intentionally to fasting, Scriptures, and prayers as ways of overcoming temptations during this year's Lent?
In Christ, Fr. Bernard, O.P.