Today’s reflection is on the First Sunday in Lent, Sunday March 10, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.
As we begin our 40-day journey through the desert, we start this first Sunday of Lent with Jesus as he is tempted by Satan. Today I’m going to focus on three tactics that the devil used against the Son of God and that he also uses against us in much the same way.
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he entered the desert for forty days, and goes on to say that Jesus “ate nothing for those forty days and when they were over he was hungry.” Only then does the devil appear! Here’s the first tactic of the devil: the devil waits until we’re at our weakest to tempt us! Jesus was fat and happy and filled with the Holy Spirit on day 1, but the devil patiently waits not to day 10 or 20 or 30, but he waits until the 40 days are OVER! Jesus hasn’t eaten in 40 days and Satan starts turning rocks into bread. That’s shady as can be! That’s the devil! That’s how he does it.
In our life, it may not be bread that we seek, but make no mistake, the devil never attacks us when we’re strong, and always attacks us with what we crave. I think a lot of people get into trouble this way during Lent. Maybe we gave up alcohol, or cigarettes, or drugs because we know that all of these things pollute our body and soul. And we don’t even think about these things at the beginning—but all of a sudden, when we have a crisis, when we’re tired, when we’re in an argument with a friend; then we start thinking, “I could sure use a drink right now.” And he’s got you. We need to remember the words of Jesus, “I do not live on _______ but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” You see, instead of grabbing that drink, that joint, we need to pick up God’s Holy Word. When temptation comes, we turn to God to give us strength.
The second tactic the devil uses is to make a ton of promises he can’t keep. The Gospel said that the devil, “took [Jesus] up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world,” and the devil said he would give Jesus all that power and glory. The devil said that Jesus could have it all if Jesus would just worship him. That’s the same lie that tricked our first parents, Adam and Eve. The devil promises people what is not his to give—power and glory. All power and all glory comes from God—and Jesus is the Son of God, so all power and glory is already his anyway! Adam and Eve were told that if they break God’s rules and eat the fruit they would become like God. They already were like God! They were created in God’s own likeness and image. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them!” Satan promises what people already have, and what is not his to give! This is madness! But it works!
In our own lives, we believe the lie that somehow God doesn’t really want our happiness, but Satan does! We start to believe that by following God’s laws, leaning on God’s promises, and following Jesus’ teaching to love—we will end up unhappy, unfulfilled, and will somehow be missing out and miserable. But really, it’s exactly the opposite! When I’m following God, loving my neighbor, and living right—I have peace in my life; like for real! No anxiety, no stress, no looking over my shoulder. I stand proud, chest out, with nothing to hide: honorable! That’s the happiness, power, and glory that comes only from God! When we follow God, follow His Word, and observe his law, we discover the truth, that real happiness comes ONLY from being right with God and our brothers. We need to remember the words of Jesus, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
The third tactic the devil uses is to make us proud, conceited, and over confident. Satan led Jesus to Jerusalem, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” No worries, God’s angels will guard you “and with their hands they will support you.” So, if Jesus knows that he lives not on bread alone, but on God’s word, and if Jesus knows that the only one he serves is God, then, hey, why not put that God you love so much to the test! Right?
In our life this sometimes takes the form of irresponsible living because, hey, God’s got my back! When we’re in good with God we can start to act like God’s mercy and love for us, trumps God’s justice and respect for our freedom. We start to act like because God has our back we can get away with anything. God does love us and is always with us, and our confidence in that truth grows as we live our Christian life. And we should follow Jesus’ advice, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
As we journey through Lent, remember these three tactics of the devil:
- That the devil knows our weakness and attacks when we are weakest,
- The devil always promises the power and glory that is not his to give, and
- The devil makes us want to test our relationship with God—he wants us to see so that we believe, but Jesus says that when we believe our eyes will be opened to see.
And finally, I want to leave you with this last truth, “When the devil had finished every temptation he departed from [Jesus] for at time.” In this life, the temptations never stop. The devil is always prowling the earth seeking the ruin of men’s souls. We must be always on guard against the devil and his tactics: remain in God’s word, worship God alone, and have faith in God—no testing required. Lk 4:1-13
What are my areas of weakness in my Christian life, and when am I most weak and susceptible to the devil’s temptations?
How have I placed my trust in worldly desires, power, fame, fortune, or pleasure in the hopes of finding the lasting joy that only God can provide?
Do I sometimes put God to the test by taking risks or acting irresponsibly because of my confidence that God is always with me and will protect me from harm?