Undefeated: Winning Over Temptation Wk 1: Come Holy Spirit
Welcome to our new homily series for Lent called Undefeated: Winning Over Temptation. No matter what temptations we face in life, we don’t have to let them defeat us. We can stay undefeated. Lent is a great time to practice winning over temptation, to stay undefeated. We all have different seasons in our lives. Sometimes we are more tempted to give-in than other times.
The first reading from Genesis takes us back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It tells the story of the very first sin, the original sin. This reading is also the story of every sin, about every person’s loss of innocence.
Haven’t we all experienced the same things as Adam and Eve? There is a time of clear conscience. Then, comes a temptation, the urge to taste the forbidden, to experience the unknown, to grasp for the illusion of maturity. Maybe it happened when we had our first smoke, our first drink, maybe our first theft, or maybe even our first infidelity.
The promise of temptation was that we would become godlike, that is, somehow more mature, and we gave in. It promised one thing but delivered something else, and we experienced the fall. At that moment, we lost something and realized that we were naked. We came to see how fragile, suggestible, limited, weak and how easily tempted we are as our sin distanced us from the God we once knew so well. As the Catechism says, the essence of that original sin was the attempt by Adam and Eve to be like God but without God. The heart of every sin is the desire to be like God but without God.
We all have experienced the innocence of the Garden, the temptation and taste of forbidden fruit, and then the fall when we realized that we were naked and in need of grace. The fall is not just a moment in Genesis but in every life.
The Devil is real. As the ancient philosophers said: Know thyself. We need to know our strengths and our weaknesses. When it comes to temptations we need to know our weaknesses, identify them, and realize they are opportunities for growth. First and foremost though we need to realize God is the one who can deliver us from temptation. We have to know when we need help.
The Gospel reading is also about temptation but with a different ending than Adam and Eve. Jesus went into the wilderness of Judea and there he also was tempted. But here the result was victory. Jesus is tempted in the desert three times and three times he wins. He remains undefeated. These too are temptations we all know well. Maybe we can see in them some of the temptations we experience during Lent.
The first temptation is to turn the stones to bread. Why fast during Lent? We all know the lure of this temptation in a society driven by consumption. Jesus quotes Scripture to give a great truth, “We do not live by bread alone.” There is more to us than what we eat, wear, or drive, or trying to fill ourselves with bad habits like pornography.
There is a place inside us we might call the hole in the soul, a place only God can fill. To keep a serious Lent with its fast and abstinence isn’t old-fashioned. It is very modern, a declaration of independence from the grip of consumption. Giving up something for Lent is not about self-punishment but about a freedom that liberates the soul and makes space for God.
The second temptation is to jump from the temple, to compel God to do something for us. We might experience this temptation in the following way. If you’re going to pray, forget about the difficult work of repentance and conversion of life. Go for the quick fix, cheap grace, instant results, microwave spirituality. Jesus quotes Scripture to say, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” There is no express lane to redemption without repentance. There is no way to bypass the need to change how we live in order to experience God’s help in our life.
The third temptation is to seek the kingdoms of the world in the illusion that fulfillment comes from power and control. Jesus shows us a different way, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Fulfillment comes from following the Lord in giving something of ourselves to others. We are serving God when we are helping others.
Lent is a time, then, when we face the temptations of consumption (stones into bread), the temptations of instant spirituality (tempting God) and the temptations of power and control (the kingdoms of the world). In these temptations that come to every life, we can fail like Adam and Eve or know victory like Jesus and stay undefeated for Lent. If you don’t think you can do it for all of Lent, start with one day at a time, or one week at a time.
We all know the failures of Adam and Eve in our life. Lent assures us that we can know the victory of Jesus Christ in our life as well. Temptations will never go away. They are a part of life and are found everywhere. They travel with us wherever we go.
We might say to ourselves, well of course Jesus is undefeated; he is the Son of God. If you think that, you are missing one of the primary points of Jesus’ life in coming to the world as a human being. Yes he also has a divine nature, but he does not use that to avoid the same problems we face. He does not use his divine nature to avoid problems because he wants to show us that we too can avoid temptation and live a life in the light of God. What he does use, is the Holy Spirit who is also available to you for help.
The first line of the gospel today says : Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. Jesus is filled with –not bread, nor hunger nor power nor position. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He relies on the Holy Spirit. We are all filled with thIs same Holy Spirit by virtue of our baptism, but we tend to forget it and not be mindful that the Spirit is always with us, leading us, leading us to help us not be hungry for overt consumption, power, etc. Invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you during this Lent and be mindful of the Holy Spirit within you.
I encourage you to pray the prayer, “Come Holy Spirit” throughout Lent. That is an easy and powerful prayer to remember. When you pray come Holy Spirit, you are asking God to help you, and reminding yourself that the Holy Spirit is within you, you simply need to ask for the Spirit’s help. So practice that prayer during Lent, especially when you are going through trials, tests, and temptations, pray come Holy Spirit come.