"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." –Hebrews 4:15
As we often struggle during Lent – giving up worldly attachments and embracing prayer, fasting and almsgiving – it can be helpful to look to the example Jesus set in His own struggles. Catholics get an immediate reminder of these struggles on the first Sunday in Lent, where the Gospel from St. Matthew catalogs Christ’s temptations.
As Bl. Fulton Sheen explained, we might view Christ’s temptations in the desert as a series of appeals to different parts of the human soul. The first temptation asks Jesus to abandon the spiritual in favor of the appetitive, to satisfy humans with earthly bread rather than the Bread of Life. The second tempts Him to play only to the senses, to wow humans with miracles rather than walking with them humbly. The third appeals to a distinctly twisted form of human reason: to gain all of the power in the world, at the price of worshiping the devil.
Christ rejects all of these temptations with the Word of God, which reminds us of the transcendence of the spiritual over fleshly appetites and human reason alone. Yet as we struggle through Lent, feeling all too human, it can be difficult to place ourselves in Christ’s shoes. Given that He was God, wouldn’t the temptation have been easier for Him? Could He really understand our place?
C.S. Lewis provides a beautiful answer for us to pray on throughout Lent: “We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means.” As we’re tempted to give up this Lent, to think that Jesus does not understand our human struggles and constant falls, it would serve us well to meditate on Christ’s own temptations. Jesus, in fact, understood temptation even more than we do – and He stood up to it in every facet of His soul. Reflecting on His temptations and His Passion, may we be motivated to do the same!
Lord, let us look to Your example as we seek to fight temptation. Provide us a way of escape as You promise in Your Word, and give us courage and strength to resist sinful desires that we may become more like You.
Passage for Further Reading:
About the Author:
Aidan Stenson is a senior at UChicago. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of Cana and Social Chair of the Catholic Student Organization on campus.