Lead Us Not Into Temptation
The psalm refrain today says it all: “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.”
Anyone who has ever been to a funeral liturgy will recognize the psalm as the one Michael Joncas set to music as On Eagle’s Wings. It certainly leads us to Luke’s gospel today. Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil. It was in the desert that the Israelites were tempted to abandon their journey toward the Promised Land and thus, turn away from their covenant with God.
Now Jesus finds himself in the desert, hungry for food, but also to do the will of the Father. As a human, the idea of ruling with power and glory must have also sounded appealing to Jesus. Yet his answer to the devil is: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Finally the devil tempts Jesus to throw himself from the temple parapet. Jesus rebukes the devil, saying: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Temptation followed Jesus until the very end of his life. The crowds taunted him to save himself if he truly was the Messiah, even as he was being led to the Cross.
As the baptized family of Jesus, we are led into forty days of Lent each year. We are also constantly led into temptation to sin in myriad ways. We pray that we don’t fall into sin’s grasp. Yet, we find ourselves resisting occasions to lie, to cheat, to treat another unjustly, to avoid responsibility, to gossip, to be self-centered or to act with disdain for the love which God showers on us constantly.
Thomas Merton wrote: “It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying God’s entire creation long ago…. In spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce men and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out grace upon us?”
It was that infinite love of God which sustained Jesus throughout his life, leading him ultimately to say from the Cross: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” When we recognize that love in our own lives, we can place our temptations at the foot of the Cross as Paul of the cross exhorts us to do. May we have a most blessed Lenten season.