A familiar scene: Jesus in the desert tempted by the devil. Paintings by famous artists hang in the Vatican showing the devil trying his best to make Jesus give in to temptation. But we know that he never did. Our Lord never sinned. He remained faithful to the will of the Father.
Therefore, if Jesus was tempted and did not sin, temptation is not a sin. Countless numbers of people confess their temptations because they feel guilty. Temptations will never go away. St. Anthony of the desert wrote that he left the city to avoid temptations and when he got to the desert all the devils were waiting for him. The reason is simple—we carry all sorts of fears inside ourselves. Our history, our failures, moments of rejection—those memories are inside of us and evil uses them to distract us from the truth. The truth is that no temptation, no sin, not even death can separate us from the love of Christ. Jesus already paid the price. He won the victory over sin and death. We don’t have to be afraid. Remember being afraid of the dark? Remember the fear of shadows on the wall? But then Daddy or Mommy came in and turned on the light and there was nothing under the bed, no monsters in the closet, nothing coming in the window. When Jesus died and rose to life again, He turned on the light for all of creation—even for those who have not yet heard. So many have not yet heard, some call themselves Catholic, but they remain in the bonds of fear. Bringing our fears to the light will dispel the darkness—that’s why we come to Confession. Once we speak the things that burden us, they loose power. Sort of like puss oozing out of a sore. The opposite also happens—when we keep something secret—the secret will eat away at our psyche and come back to haunt us.
The devil is very smart—smarter than we think. He will use our past, our guilt, our fear against us. The devil is always our accuser. Therefore we have to learn to discern from where a feeling is coming. Usually if a sin that we committed a long time ago keeps bothering us and we have already confessed it, then it’s not the voice of God but the voice of the enemy. He does not want us to experience forgiveness—to be at peace—to love ourselves. We can never undo the past, only learn from our mistakes. Does us no good to keep looking in the rear view mirror.
Jesus acts as our defender—our advocate—the One who acquits us from the wrong we have done. However, we cannot hear His voice if we are over our head with guilt. We have to know who we are in Christ in order to accept liberation. Notice how Jesus acted in the desert when Satan tempted Him. The devil questioned His identity. “If you are the Son of God…” “If you are who you say that you are…” Evil will always introduce doubt into our mind about our personality. Who are you? Can you prove it? Then come the overflow of temptations to prove that we are a “macho man” or an attractive woman or indeed a talented person. We don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone. Yet, consider how much energy is wasted in trying to get God to like us, when God already loves us without conditions. Why do we fast? We do we pray extra during Lent? Better not be because we are trying to impress God. Everything that we do should be for us—for us to come closer to the Lord—to grow in love for each other—to imitate God’s mercy. If and when we realize that God dwells in us, no matter what happens, then evil will have no power over us. Then we can resist temptation—because we are not the ones fighting. The Lord fights our battles with the devil. Once we are convinced that we belong to God than we can belong to no one else.
What a marvelous Lenten resolution: for us to open our heart to the love God has for us. Quite frankly we will become indestructible—no evil will be able to harm us.