March 1, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
March 1, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
We are presented with two different types of dialogue in the readings of this weekend. First is the dialogue between the serpent and Eve in the book of Genesis. The serpent wins the debate. Human weakness, frailty, corruption, and death begin to reign. That conversation happens in the beautiful garden of Eden, but Eden loses its beauty and glamor with the serpent’s victory. The story of creation changes completely given the wrong choice made by our first parents, Adam and Eve.
The second dialogue takes place in the desert, the arid atmosphere created by the Fall. Beauty, which is wiped off by Adam/Eve’s fall is to be recaptured by the Son of God. Christ comes to restore creation’s lost glory. He engages Satan. The good news is that unlike the dialogue between Eve and the serpent in the first reading, Jesus wins the debate. Paul writes, “In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came upon all” (Rom. 5:18). As we begin the Lenten season, the message is that through Christ, we are redeemed and restored to glory.
Matthew narrates the three temptations of Jesus in the gospel. First, Jesus is hungry. Second, he is asked to throw himself down to prove that he is God’s Son. Third, he is presented with attractive offers, fame and power, should he do homage to the devil.
Here’s the devil’s pranks, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” The devil knows that Jesus has mystical powers to turn stones into loaves. Another joker, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you…” Then, he says to Jesus, “I shall give you all this power and glory if you worship me.” What a disappointment when Jesus reprimands him, “Get away, Satan!” And reminds him of God’s supremacy, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
The temptations of Jesus remind that humanity will always face challenges. Followers of Christ are not immune from temptation. Right from the time of Adam and Eve, temptation has become a part of the human history, with weakness, brokenness, and depravity characterizing the human story. Adam and Eve succumb to temptation. They lose their friendship with God. Jesus’ story in the gospel presents both a reversal of the experience at the garden of Eden and a restoration of the dignity of God in creation. Jesus faces temptation as a human being. But his love for God is key to his victory over temptation. Saint Paul urges us, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame,” “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:11, 13). We must love God passionately in order not to succumb to the devil’s plans when he strikes.
The wind of temptation can be strong because it attacks our very points of need. By presenting us with what the body craves, the devil takes advantage of our senses. He comes with convincing voice, bold gestures, and persistence couched in well-crafted offers. The devil’s presents appealing rewards, with conditional if’s. “If you do this, then this will happen.” Whenever you begin to struggle within yourself about such conditions, it is likely to be the devil making the offer.
What Christ does in this gospel passage is significant. He shuns the devil, “Get away, Satan!” “Get away,” is not a language of dialogue or compromise, rather of dismissal and authority . It places charge on the devil. It tells him that the case is closed. The human mind is not made to bargain with the devil. That is why Eve succumbs to taking the forbidden fruit. She begins to explain and dialogue with the devil, hence he takes advantage of the conversation.
Treat your encounter with the devil as a crisis situation. Get away from the scene. Rise up and leave, else the devil lures you in. Be it the desire for pornography, the attraction to particular site, the urge for drinking, the allurement to drugs. Be it the temptation to revenge, the adrenalin shoot for anger, the push to use hateful, negative words, defend a lie, etc. Get away from the scene. Think about arguing with a drunk who has a loaded gun in his hand. That does not make sense. Peter cries out in his desperation for help as he begins to sink, “Lord save me!” (Matt. 14:30). Ask Jesus for help, but get away from there.
Getting away can help you to strategize. The second step is to take the devil out. We have been given the authority to cast out devil in our lives. We have to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayers and the sacraments. We must say to the devil, “Get away, Satan!” Imagine if Christians stand our ground against the devil in our world today. These days, the devil fights hard to occupy relationships, homes, and institutions. The devil demands that people worship him. We must not do homage to the devil, rather, like Jesus, we must say to him, “Get away, Satan, from my life. Get away, Satan, from my children’s lives. Get away, Satan, from my home. Get away, Satan, from my marriage. Get away, Satan, from our schools. Get away, Satan, from our politics. Get away, Satan, from our leaders, and let us do what God wants.” With Satan in the system, it is hard to move forward. We must take him out.
God’s grace stays with those who trust Him. What is the devil doing with you right now? Maybe he is offering some sort of fake insurance that goes like this, “Nothing will happen to you. It is normal. Everyone is doing it. God knows your weakness.” Of course, we don’t need the devil to remind us that God has given His angels charge over his children. The serpent says to Eve, “You will not certainly die. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5) God will never ask you to do evil with any good promise.
Truly, the devil knows that a holy, spiritual life is key to staying at the top and that does not work in his favor. Each time we resist the devil, God stays at the top. Powers, fame, vain glories, and greed do not keep us at the top. Grace and mercy are keys to staying at the top. Christ reminds us, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Lk. 4:8).
During this Lent, let us pray to the Holy Spirit for strength to overcome the devil.
1. Visit the Blessed Sacrament and use adoration time with the Lord.
2. Take on some mortification of the flesh through fasting. Remind yourself that “man does not live by bread alone.”
3. Set some measurable goals to keep track of the efficacy of grace in your life. Can you save something from your fasting to help the poor at Easter?
4. Schedule special private prayer time. Put it on your day timer. There is power in prayers.
5. Use the sacrament of confession well. Refill your grace tank. Come back as needed.
6. Get away from the scene. The devil is no friend.
Readings: 1st- Gen. 2:7-9; 3:1-7; 2nd- Rom. 5:12-19; Gospel- Matt. 4:1-11