Sunday Mass: Whispering Temptations

March 08th
Change stones into bread and satisfy human hunger. Worship me and gain power and glory. Throw yourself from the temple and impress the public.
Those were the temptations that the devil whispered into the ears of Jesus during his time in the desert. Temptations designed to lure Jesus away from being the Messiah the Father wished him to be.
But as we hear in Sunday's Gospel (Luke 4:1-13), those were not the last whispers that Jesus would hear from the mouth of the Evil One. "When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time."
The devil continued his whispering campaign during the life of Jesus. It was part of the campaign of temptations that the devil launched against humanity from its first days in the Garden. As the snake said to the woman, "You certainly will not die .... you will be like gods, who know good and evil."
This season of Lent is a time of prayer and penance, a time to strive to turn away from sin and to grow in holiness. Lent is also a good time for us to become more aware of the temptations that the devil is whispering into our ears.
Those temptations are not the same for every person. One person may be tempted to view pornography, another to steal from an employer, and a third to use social media to destroy others.
But there are three temptations that the devil seems intent on whispering into the ears of most people today.
The devil whispers, "God is all merciful, God forgives everything." The devil tells us there is no need to worry about our sins. If Jesus could forgive the thief on the cross, he certainly will forgive us. Just do what you want and then seek forgiveness.
The devil whispers, "Remember you are only human." The devil reminds us we are only flesh and blood, we can't be expected to be angels. We have our urges and needs. If God wanted perfect people, God would have made perfect people. God understands, after all we're only human.
The devil whispers, "Happiness in life comes with wealth, power, and fame." The devil flashes images before us of those acclaimed as successes in life. He tempts us to think that if we only had what they had, if we acted like them, then we would be happy and fulfilled.
Of course, those whispers are full of lies, as were the temptations that the devil placed before Jesus.
In contradiction to those devilish whispers, Jesus proclaims that God is merciful, but he also speaks of judgment. He tells parables that speak of dividing the sheep from the goats and of separating the wheat from the weeds.
Jesus proclaims that we are humans, but humans made in the image and likeness of God. Humans who share the same nature that the Son of God took on when he came among us. Humans who through baptism become dwelling places of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus proclaims that wealth and power, fame and fortune do not bring what we expect. Jesus speaks of the danger of riches. He says it would be simpler for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus warns of the woes that await the wealthy, the filled, and those exalted by the world.
This season of Lent calls us to be more aware of the temptations that the devil is whispering into our ears. Temptations that we will only be able to resist if, like Jesus, we are armed with the truth of God's Word.
© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski