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Lent – 1

In horror films, devils are portrayed as hideous beings, ugly monsters, frighteningly disfigured and repulsive. This is also how we picture evil spirits in other media and in popular imagination. But does this picture jive with reality? What does the devil look like?

My exoricst priest-classmate and friend, Fr. Jocis Syquia, once told me that the devil, truly the ugliest of all, conceals his ugliness. Otherwise he cannot even get near a person without terrorizing his prospects. The devil is a master of disguise. He wears beautiful masks to mislead us. In tempting us, the devil also tricks us with his bright-colored beautiful packages.

Look at today’s gospel. The devil attempts to destroy Jesus’ mission with attractive temptations. He does not tell Jesus to commit sin or to do something wrong. No, he invites Jesus to try some seemingly harmless, nice comforts.

The devil offers Jesus, already hungry in the desert, with tasty bread. Isn’t this bread delicious? Isn’t this what your body needs to be strong and healthy? After all, you deserve the best nourishment. Bread is not bad, but Jesus saw that the devil was using it to make Him less centered on God and focused only on His needs and wants.

The devil then tries a seduction of power. The Son of God must enjoy privileges. He must be famous, above the rest. Why don’t you show them who you really are? Display your power and put all men and women in awe of you. Power in itself is not bad; Jesus is truly all-powerful. But Jesus knew that power is not for manipulation and control. His power has one purpose – service.

Lastly, the devil entices Jesus with riches. Jesus will have all the kingdoms of the world if only he would submit to the designs of the devil. Jesus will have whatever he wants to buy, to collect, to hoard. And he would never be in need. But Jesus saw that undue attachment to riches and material things often compete with our loyalty to God. It makes God secondary in a person’s list of priorities. Jesus saw beyond these tempting offers, that these would eventually enslave Him and make Him unfree for what God truly intended His life to be.

Like Jesus we must know the nature of the devil’s temptations today. He comes in the form of seemingly harmless, nice, blissful things. How can this relationship be wrong when it feels so right? Am I not free to do with my body whatever I want? Why should I listen to authority in my family or community, when in fact I am old enough to decide? If I cannot tell the truth, there is nothing wrong with white lies! Why share when I worked hard for all these?

Let us pray to have the wisdom of Jesus. As we start this Lenten season, may our eyes be truly open to the deceitful face of impending danger that comes from daily temptations. Everyday as we say, “lead us not into temptation”, let us also say “help me see temptations for what they really are” – ugly deceptions that will destroy my faith and relationships.