Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
At the beginning of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Ignatius states unequivocally the purpose of human life: “to praise, reverence, and to serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save [our] souls” (Ganss, 1992). For Ignatius, nothing could seem clearer. But, there’s a catch: whether we do so is our choice.
In the Gospel, Jesus is tempted with real choices. It mirrors the Meditation on the Two Standards that we find in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises. There, Ignatius offers the retreatant a choice. Ignatius instructs the retreatant to imagine him or herself placed in position to see two competing staffs, each raised high and topped by a flag bearing the insignia of its respective leader, one for Lucifer, one for Christ. Retreatants are asked, “How will you choose? Will you cast your lot with Lucifer, choosing material wealth, temporal power and worldly praise as your ultimate prize? Or, will you place yourself beneath the Standard of Christ, seeking indifference for such earthly concerns, fixed instead only on praising, reverencing and serving the Lord of life?”
Jesus’ response to Satan’s tempting in the Gospel offers us guidance in how to choose. Notice how Jesus never cites his own authority? With references and quotes from scripture, he references the power and authority of his Father. We are called to do the same. We need not face the temptations to commit evil alone, but calling upon God’s promise of grace, courageously choose the good.
As we begin Lent, God offers us not only a choice, but an opportunity, one to amend our sinful choices and live lives more consistent with our true, created purpose. We need only ask our Lord for his help.
—Fr. William T. Sheahan, SJ, is a Jesuit of the Central and Southern Province serving as rector of the Rockhurst Jesuit Community in Kansas City, MO.
Dear Lord, you gave me the gift of free will and the grace to choose the good. Please forgive me for those times when I give in to temptation. I ask you to grant me the wisdom and courage to place myself beneath your standard and make the choices pleasing to you. Amen.
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