This morning’s reading from Matthew’s gospel (4:1-11) is the familiar story that takes place as Jesus concludes his forty-day retreat in the desert in preparation for his public ministry. Having spent such a long period of time alone with no supports Jesus was, as the gospel says, rather understatedly, hungry. I would imagine he was also tired, dirty and lonely in a “fully human” way. Often it is when we are at our weakest, most vulnerable – which sometimes may come even during an extended retreat alone with God – that we are tempted with the illusions that will take us off our spiritual path. This is what happened to Jesus when the devil appeared offering Jesus power, pleasure and riches. We tend to think the outcome of this scenario was a “no-brainer”; Jesus was the Messiah, after all. I think it behooves us to take another look at what is portrayed as a short encounter but perhaps took place over an extended period of cajoling and threatening. (Keep in mind our belief that Jesus “was like us in all things but sin” which doesn’t mean resisting temptation was easy but rather that he succeeded in doing so in the end.) My gratitude this morning is that – at whatever cost – Jesus was able to resist changing some of those stones into bread (the simplest of the devil’s taunting suggestions). I can use that example of strength when I encounter similar temptations – or any others – along the way.
Today then I hope to inventory what I know are temptations to be less than I can be and look to the strength of Jesus for ways to be aware of slippage in my thoughts and actions, remembering always that the one I serve is God.