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We left Jesus in the desert at the end of last Sunday's Gospel from Mark 1:45. That was actually the third time it mentions Jesus in the wilderness. Today we get the first account with Jesus' temptation in the desert.
Who said Christianity is for wimps? The wilderness is not a safe place. It is exceedingly dangerous physically, but for the Christian it means even greater challenges spiritually.
When we enter the desert, we find that we are not alone. The tempter is there as he was in the garden. The wild beasts are there (perhaps representing other demons). But also, though more quietly, God is there. His angels are there. And these great spiritual powers battle not over rock and earth and plant, but they battle over our hearts and souls. The devil tempts, the Lord guides. This is the Spiritual Battle that we live every day in our hearts, in our consciences, but more intensely when we run from all the noise of the world to see what noise has gotten into our hearts - has clung to us and begun to shape us.
In the desert we are reminded that the devil does indeed exist, brothers and sisters, and as I've heard it said, his best trick is convincing the world that he doesn't exist. He isn't some goofy red-skinned thing with a pitchfork. That's why he's so easy to disregard. He actually a fallen angel.
(Lk 12:4-5) I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Who said Christianity is for wimps? They were very wrong! Spiritual enemies are worse than earthly ones.
Jesus was tempted. Wait - Jesus, tempted? Yes. A sign for us of the victory that is ours in Him.
A great work about how we are tempted in our world today would be C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape is a demon writing to an understudy, wormwood, about how to bring down the person he is assigned to lead into hell. It's a great book for high school and older.
If you have felt called to some severe penance, you may feel tempted now. But remember the most important thing: God is there and God is stronger. He may be silent, but He is not absent. He is there. Call on Him. He will answer. Take refuge in His truth and His love. We are never tempted without hope. God always provides a victory for us in Christ Jesus.