1st Sunday of Lent Year A

     In today’s Gospel, we hear how the Devil tried to tempt Jesus into sin. If the Devil is going to tempt Jesus, don’t you think he is going to tempt us who are trying to follow Jesus? So we must enter into the battle and fight to avoid sin. We can never forget that “Christian holiness does not mean being sinless, but rather it means struggling not to give in and always getting up after every fall.”[1] Like any battle we must first resolve never to give up the fight. Next, to gain the upper hand, we must figure out what the enemy is doing. Only after seeing the enemy’s tactics are we able to set up defenses and go on the offense.

     The devil’s tactics are no secret. Today’s first reading shows us exactly how the devil works. He begins his temptation with a general idea. He asks Eve the simple question, why has God said that you can’t eat from that tree. Notice that the devil has not yet told Eve tin, but has simply put a thought into her mind. The devil begins by leading our mind to explore a sin; he gets us to ask ourselves if this sin is really a sin, to question why it’s bad etc. The proper response is to flee, to recognize the temptation of the devil and turn away as fast as is possible. The easiest way to flee is to occupy our minds with other things, such as a quick prayer. Our minds have no business entering into idle chatter; it will only lead to defeat.

    Eve makes her first mistake she enters into a dialogue with the devil explaining why she can’t eat from the tree. Notice she doesn’t want to disobey God, and she even recognizes that the devil’s temptation is wrong, yet she is wasting her time trying to reason with evil. Friends, evil is a privation of the good, it is a privation of everything that is true and thus it is impossible to reason with evil, we shouldn’t even try. Just as it would be futile to debate with a person who is not interested in truth so too it is futile to enter into a debate with the devil who is the master of lies.

     In entering into a dialogue with the temptation we cede ground and then the Devil capitalizes on this by making the sin appear desirable. He tells Eve that God lied to her and that if she eats from the tree she will become like God. The temptation plays to our desire for pleasure making the sin seem very appealing. The tempter may remind us of past pleasures or even try to convince us that the sin will not offend God that much, or worse that God would want us to commit the sin. Again at this point, the best defense is to flee. If someone you knew to be evil was standing next to you, telling you repeatedly to commit a grave sin, or trying to convince you something was not a sin that you knew was a sin, wouldn’t you eventually just walk away? Why should it be any different with the devil? At this point, there is still time to get away, but if we remain in this dialogue with the temptation we will continue to vacillate and the sin will become more appealing. The longer we remain in dialogue the harder it will be not to fall.

     If the soul does not flee it will eventually fall as Eve did. Worse than sining by oneself, often because of scandal and the participation of others, the soul will lead others into sin as Eve did with Adam. If we do not flee, the devil will wear us down and turn us to freely commit a sin that only a short time earlier we were disgusted by. Having had multiple options to flee and get away from the Devil, our persistence to engage him in dialogue will lead us into sin.

     For those of us trying to follow the example of Christ, temptations can become major frustrations in our lives, yet we can never forget that the devil tried to tempt Jesus into sin, so why should we be exempt from those same temptations? When we find ourselves facing temptations we must immediately flee by changing our thoughts, perhaps by uttering a quick prayer in our minds. Simply because we defeat the devil once does not mean that he will not return again. In fact, as we continue in this wayfaring state we can be sure the devil will constantly try to tempt us. In the face of repeat temptations, we must keep vigilant and continue to resist but also remain confident that the frequent temptations come only because the devil has been previously defeated. As one defeats the devil, the soul gets stronger and continues to have the strength needed to fight the devil until he eventually realizes that he cannot be victorious and leaves the soul alone.

     This season of Lent is our time to work to overcome certain habits of sin in our lives. Where does the devil tempt you? Know his tactics, what is your battle plan to resist the devil?

[1] Wojtyla, Karol. The Meaning of Vocation. (New York: Scepter Publishers), 1997. 10.

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