Test and temptation are part and parcel of life, and whether we like it or not these are two things that we cannot run away from. We will always be tested, and temptation is something that we have to live with. But how we manage and conduct ourselves when we are tested and/or tempted tells us who we are.
Our Lord Jesus himself was put to the test at the beginning of his ministry. What comes as a surprise was that it was the Holy Spirit who led him to the desert where he spent 40 days dealing with Satan.
The word “tempt” is defined as “to entice to sin.” In the desert, Jesus was tempted by the devil. In other words, he was put “to a test.” When applied to present-day situations, being put to a test is a way of proving if someone is ready for a particular task.
Pilots pass through a rigorous discipline training and testing to see if they are fit to fly. This is similar to driving a motor vehicle. We have to undergo training and need to pass a test to enable us to get our driver’s license. God tests his servants to see if they are fit to be used by him. God tested Abraham to prove his faith.
To have a sense of what testing and temptation is, Jesus himself was subjected to it, and you see in the Gospel readings during this Lenten Season that Satan tries his best to induce us into choosing our will over God’s will. If he cannot induce us to apostasize or to sin mortally, he would try to get us to make choices that would lead us away from God.
We can, however, draw inspiration from the way Jesus confronted temptation. Without His example, it would be next to impossible for us to avoid being tempted. And we should disabuse our minds that temptations refer only to sexual pleasures. Temptation comes in many different ways, and we need a discerning spirit to distinguish the kind of temptation before us.
There is the urge to buy a new pair of shoe when we already have dozens of pairs that we rarely use. The same is true with expensive bags that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or pesos, and you are tempted to buy these luxuries because the Joneses have it.
In a public, corporate or even religious setting, there is that temptation to acquire more power and authority than what has been prescribed, and when we don’t deal with this temptation in the way of God’s Grace, we begin to follow Satan’s plan — that is for us to become channels of disunity instead of harmony.
But temptations are not intended to make us fall as the tests in our lives are designed to strengthen the defenses in our minds, hearts and souls. Temptations are not intended to ruin our lives, but to make us better spiritual warriors.
Hence, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness not only to test him but to prove and purify him and to make sure that he was ready for the task that he was about to do. As Satan tried his best to entice Jesus to sin and despite his lack of food for 40 days, Jesus remained steadfast in rejecting Satan’s temptations.
In the three times that he was tempted, Jesus responded by using the Word of God and remaining faithful to God’s will. What was Jesus telling us? He was simply saying that the devil will try its best to tempt us as we embark in our journey of faith.
Satan will deceive us into thinking that we are better than others. The devil will try to draw us away from God and will present before us situations and conditions that will lead us to make compromises in our decisions. But we will emerge victorious by our reliance on the Word of God.
In proclaiming the Kingdom of God, Jesus outlined at least two great truths that has become the foundation of the Christian faith. Jesus wants us to believe in the Good News that he came to bring for the world to hear. The Good News that is founded on truth brings hope, peace and salvation (Eph 1:13). Our Lord also wants us to believe that God loves us so much that he gave his only begotten Son to ransom us from our sins and restore our wretched nature unto himself.
Jesus himself will give us the Grace and power of the Holy Spirit to allow us to resist all occasions of sin, lead us to repentance, inspire us to believe in the Gospel and allow us to live a new life as citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom.
The Lenten Season is a time when the special graces of the Holy Spirit necessary for our salvation are poured out upon us. There is, however, a need for us to cooperate so that we can merit such graces by repenting for our sins, spending time in prayer and fasting, giving alms, regular attendance in the Holy Mass and sermons and reception of the sacraments. As St. Augustine said, “God Who created us without our cooperation will not save us without our cooperation.”
What happens when actual graces are conferred upon us is that the Holy Spirit enters our soul and confers on it a brightness and beauty. This is called “sanctifying grace,” which is the beginning of our salvation.