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1st Sunday of LentB

This Sunday’s gospel is very short. Its mission is to start us into thinking about the journey of Lent we just entered into. Mark describes Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert, where he was to be tempted by the devil. In his baptism, Jesus was filled with the Spirit. But it was no guarantee to a life immune from temptations of daily life.

As human beings, we live our lives in constant battle with many choices. In the Old Testament, Moses presents the people of Israel with only two choices, one for life and the other for death. Today life is much more complicated and the choices are nuanced.

I like this illustration of a conversation in a restaurant. Waiter: Care for drinks, sir? Customer: What are the options? Waiter: Hard drinks and soft drinks. Customer: Get me soft drinks. Waiter: Coke or Pepsi. Customer: Coke, please. Waiter: Regular, light or zero? Customer: Regular, please. Waiter: In bottle or in can? Customer (vexed): Will just give me water! Waiter: Mineral or distilled?

Many choices and most of them seem to be the best, the most beneficial, the most attractive. We are easily tempted because in the face of these choices we are always free, free to select one option over another.

Temptations therefore are part of life. And the temptations that come to us are always connected with our weaknesses. The devil attacks us where we are vulnerable. In the temptations of Jesus, the devil tried to lure him, but Jesus was strong against the deceptions. As for us, the devil plays on our weak points. People who have great need of money are moved to steal. Lonely, stressed people are drawn to impure thoughts and actions. Those whose faith rests on shaky foundation easily doubt God’s love. When people are afraid, they easily lie.

We fall into these attractions when, presented with choices, we agree on the item that pleases us most or saves our face. When we prioritize ourselves above others, we are well on our path to sin. A married man falls into sin when he ingratiates himself, but damages his wife and children. An employee sins when he enriches himself but impoverishes the company. A priest sins when he pursues happiness rather than the spirit of sacrifice.

In our time, temptations abound more than ever. As human beings these are part of life. And the devil knows how to manipulate our weakness so that we see only ourselves and not the good of others.

But there is a solution to temptation. It is prayer. A person close to God can, even with serious struggle, resist temptation and avoid sin. When was the last time we sinned? Wasn’t it also the time we were mindless of our relationship with the Lord. So, like Jesus, take prayer seriously. Pray over the choices of daily life. And if we ever sin again, there is another solution, Confession. Jesus calls us to repent immediately and believe in the Good News. This Good News is the love of God waiting to make us whole again, to make us good again. Believe it!