Nome, Alaska, is like many villages of the Arctic. The ground on which the community sits is frozen, sponge-like tundra. If you visit Nome in summer you’ll see front yards full of broken washing machines, junked cars, old toilets, scrap wood, and piles of non-degradable materials
Tourists who visit Nome in the summer are amazed at the debris and shake their heads. How could anyone live like that, they wonder. What those visitors do not realize is that for nine months of the year Nome sits under a blanket of snow that covers the garbage. During those months, the little town is a quaint winter wonderland of pure white landscapes.
In this morning’s first reading and Gospel we deal with the situation of temptation. Yes, when we are lead into temptation we don’t see the ugliness of it all but it’s very similar to the situation of Nome, Alaska.
If we were to look up the word temptation, one of the definitions we would find would be, “the act of tempting; enticement or allurement.” We tend to use this term quite often and lightly. Such as the ladies out there being tempted to shop all the time or to the guys tempted to watch a sporting event instead of going with the wife to a family event. But the temptation that we see described in today’s Gospel is in a more serious tone because the consequences involve our very life and salvation. Like the temptations of the evil one put to Jesus, we learn that through our own struggles with good and evil that we live only by hearing the word of God, putting trusting in the presence of God, and worshipping God alone.
As we find out in the Gospel story that Jesus won this battle of being tempted. Even though his battle is over we still continue the battle against temptation and this will not end until we breathe our last. We face temptations every single day and as the years go by they seem to be even stronger because of the society that we live in.
How do we fight against this battle with temptation? I would say first of all as we have just entered into the season of Lent that this is the perfect time to battle against temptation. What is Lent consist of? It’s a season of conversion as I mentioned in my homily on Ash Wednesday. We do that by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let’s start with prayer and of course we could look at a prayer life and come to the conclusion that we have given time to prayer but during this season of Lent could we decide to give more time to prayer or maybe even going a different route and trying a different mode of prayer that we have never tried or actually picking up some of the guides that are available to us during Lent. The next Lenten action is fasting. Ah, some of us love our food and it could be a difficult action to undertake but does it have to necessarily be food? No, other than the two prescribed days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as “fast days” we can be creative with what we fast from. Now it’s to understand that fasting should put us in that mood of self-sacrifice, making us become closer to the Lord during this Lenten Journey and hopefully continuing this beyond the days of Lent. Almsgiving, trying to assist those that need our assistance. Yes we can do that by means of our finances but even more valuable could be our time and really going that extra mile and helping someone. With these areas we can become closer to Christ and grow which could make us more aware of our surroundings and really see the junk behind that temptation that might come our way. Does it mean that once we have this deep relationship with our Lord that temptation goes away. Absolutely Not! Look at the lives of the saints and you will see that they continued to be tempted but they picked up and continued on the journey.
St. Augustine in one of his commentaries said, “he made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained life for you; he suffered insults in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you. If in Christ, we have been tempted; in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Chirst’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself victorious in him. He could have dept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.”
St. Augustine reminds us of how Christ experienced everything as we do except sin. Christ as we saw in the this morning’s Gospel underwent temptation but did not fall into it and showed us how to overcome it which he became victorious, so we my brothers and sisters will be able to overcome our own temptations and be victorious. Yes, my brothers and sisters the road to combat the temptations that have been upon us is a very difficult road but once we begin attacking it then we should be proud of those small battles. Each day that we overcome it is a small battle being won that will eventually be a fight that has been won and overcome.
For the first Sunday of Lent there are two options for the opening prayer for Mass. I believe that the words that are found in the second option are perfect for us today and I will leave you with these words that we could all pray during this season, “In this time of repentance we call out for your mercy. Bring us back to you and to the life your Son won for us by his death on the cross.”