First Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018)
In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus being tempted in the desert. St. Francis de Sales notes:
Jesus did not seek temptation. The Holy Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted. If we encounter temptation in that place where the Spirit of God leads us, we must be firmly confident that God will strengthen us against these temptations no matter how strong they may be. Yet, no matter how holy and generous we may think ourselves to be, we must never trust in our own strength or courage, and go out and seek temptation, thinking we can confound it. Nonetheless, we must prepare ourselves to rise above temptation. Like Jesus, we must arm ourselves with the truth of God. This truth is nothing other than faith, which shields us from temptations. When we say, “I believe” in God the Almighty, we place our trust in God’s power, not in our own strength.
As soon as you are conscious of being tempted, follow the example of children when they see a wolf or bear out in the country. They immediately run to the arms of their parents or call to them for help and protection. If the temptation continues, embrace the Holy Cross and look at our Lord. Then, turn your thoughts to some good constructive activity. Our temptations are like a chained dog. If we do not approach them they will do us no harm, even if they try to frighten us by barking at us.
Sometimes when we are faced with a temptation, in the beginning we feel wounded by some troubled emotion. Alas, we might think that it is almost impossible to serve God in holiness. Don’t trouble yourself with such an idle fear. Armed with the truth of God’s Word, God will strengthen us and give us the grace to persevere to do what is required for God’s glory and our own welfare and happiness.
(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially L. Fiorelli, ed., Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent).