Almost without exception, we feel guilty about being tempted. Deeply ingrained into being is the thought that being tempted is a sin, especially temptations of a sexual nature.
Think logically. Jesus was tempted and He never sinned. Our Lord wanted to show us that being tempted is part of being human. He identified with us in every way, expect sin. Why would God punish us for being what he made us to be—human? Why would God ever be disappointed in His creation? Temptation keeps us real. We are reminded of our weaknesses, that we are not perfect. Consider the temptations of Jesus by the devil. Satan attacked Him when He was down. Jesus had fasted for a long time. Although fasting is good for our system, we are weakened from the lack of nourishment, from not drinking. When we abstain from something and we see others enjoying what we gave up, the attraction is stronger to indulge. Temptation at its best. The devil went for the stomach. We usually eat three times a day. Some folks eat to live, others live to eat. One of the basic actions for an infant is to be able to suck the breast of the mother. Without food we die. There is profound symbolism in the imagery of the Gospel. The temptation to turn the stone into bread is about the appetites of the human mind. What do we want? What can truly satisfy us? We eat, but in a while, we want to eat again. Same is true for all the longings of the human spirit. Nothing can ever satisfy us completely. Which is why Jesus said, “One does not live on bread alone.”
The same can be said for power. We have seen and perhaps have suffered the consequences of the abuse of power. Parents, teachers, government leaders all have the potential to abuse what has been entrusted to them. The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offered Him absolute power. Fame, fortune and glory are not only movie themes. We are presently witnessing the madness of the abuse of power by Countries that want to rule the world. Power comes at a cost, usually for the ones who have no power, no voice, the little people. They get squashed. Evil always invites us to want more—to take the easy way. God chose the way of poverty, powerlessness, He became the victim. Jesus never forced anyone to do anything. To be possessed by God is to remain free. To be possessed by the devil is to lose freedom. “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” To love God is our choice.
Notice that evil always tempts us to be someone that we are not. The temptation is for us not to be human. We are created in God’s image and likeness. If we realized the dignity of each person, we would not make war, not discriminate, not hold grudges. Our humanity comes with limitations. For example, none of us can fly. We dream about flying but doesn’t happen in real life. The devil tempted Jesus with being able to fly. Nothing wrong with making discoveries that will enable us to leave the ground, as long as we do not deny our limitations. Embracing our humanity is a package deal. That’s the reason that Lent begins with ashes. Our smallness is always before us. Remember that we are limited; that nothing on this earth can completely satisfy us; remember that we will die. Not a very pleasant thought, yet folks come from miles around to get ashes. Everybody remembers that they are Catholic on Ash Wednesday—because they are free. No questions asked—just come up and get your ashes—get them while they are hot! Ashes unite us in the common human condition. Folks want to take them to the hospital, to a shut-in, to nursing homes. Nothing magical about ashes. They are not a sacrament, only sacramental. Perhaps they trigger the reminder that we are nothing without God. With God all things are possible.
The struggle continues. Jesus offers us the grace to withstand temptation. To say “no” to the devil and to say, “yes” to His will.