What an ominous ending to today’s Gospel. Listen again: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.”
When did the devil return? Perhaps it was at the time of Jesus’ great success as a teacher and a healer, when crowds were flocking to see and touch him. Perhaps it was the time when he multiplied the loaves and fish, and the people wanted to make him king. It could have been much later at the crucifixion when the crowd jeered he saved others, let him save himself by coming down off the cross. All were opportunities to tempt once again with power, prestige, and the preservation of his life.
The Evil One constantly tempts us as well. I know for myself when things are going well, prayer seems to be easy and a joy, people are treating me nicely, all my ducks are in a row, BAM! I’m tempted to become self-satisfied, and if I give in to that temptation I invariably lose that sense of well-being.
Does that ring true for you too? Or is it something else, perhaps getting something you wished to have for a long time, finally possessing it, and wishing for more? It could be a promotion at work, a good grade at school, a new 53" TV (when you really lusted for the 75" model), the video game you always wanted that your friends don’t have, or a million other things.
How do we say “no” to temptations?
The same way Jesus had to: recognizing that the God has to be first, not ourselves; that we are utterly dependent on God for everything, even those things we have “earned” through our efforts, brains, or connections; by looking into our past as Moses counseled the Israelites and seeing how blessed we’ve been.
Everything is a gift. Recognize that truth, and have an attitude of gratitude toward God. Then the devil, the Evil One, will depart from you ------ for a time.
1st Sunday of Lent, C, 16