Today’s gospel reading illustrate symbolically the temptations that Jesus of Nazareth had to contend with all his life.
On examination we will find that they are the very same temptations every one of us has to deal with also, in one way or another, throughout our lives.
The first is the temptation to put my physical desires before the wellbeing of others. To put my self interest first. It concerns my physical appetites. Comfort, eating and drinking, sexual desire, dress, how I look, possessions. As usual, all these appetites are in themselves good and God given gifts. The problem is my allowing all or some of them to rule my life. I allow myself to become the slave of one or some of these appetites. Even worse, it damages or even ruins the lives of those closest to me. Galatians 5. “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. … Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions. … In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
The second temptation is particularly applicable to religious leadership. Using God or the Church to promote ones own importance is a constant temptation. Religious organisations are tempted to put their own glorification, their own interests, before the glory of God. Church leaders can try and exercise control over everyday matters over which they have been given no authority. For example …… Church authorities have been given authority to lead people to God. They have been given authority to selflessly seek the total wellbeing of the ordinary members. The temptation is to overstep this.This can be true of all human organisations of course. The party, the company, the club, the religious organisation, can become more important than the members it is supposed to serve. People in leadership roles insist on clinging to power when well past their sell by date. I don’t think our Church or our parish should seek to publicise the good work that we do. I don’t think that, alluring as it can be, we should be speaking of how good we think we are, how well we think we are doing, what we think we have accomplished. A good antidote to this acclaim seeking is to read Mark 10: 17-22. “As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, … You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honour your father and your mother. He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth. Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
The third temptation is the allure of power, of control, be it in the home, the church, the country or the world. Just look at our world today or any day. Is not the desire for more power, for more control, behind every military, diplomatic, political and economic move. Within our own church there is a struggle for control. Losing control is a great fear in each and every one of us.
Mark 9. “Then Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to
be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Luke 6. “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
I don’t think that, during this Lenten season, I will run out of issues that need to be addressed in my life.