Deacon Tony reflects: Strength in difficult times

St Luke tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil for forty days. St Luke tells us about three of the more significant temptations, but we should note Jesus was tempted for forty days.

The three instances St Luke quotes drive straight at man’s needs and wants. The first deals with hunger; as the devil suggests that Jesus who ate nothing during his time in the wilderness; could turn stones into loaves of bread. In a similar position to the Jews in the story of the Exodus Jesus does not get frustrated by his hunger or turn away from his Father like those in the Exodus story. Jesus did not need the manna in the desert; he rebuked the enemy saying that ‘man does not live on bread alone’.

The second temptation addresses man’s lust for power and glory as the devil offers Jesus adulation, if Jesus would just worship him. Jesus reminds the devil of the first commandment to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.

In the third temptation the devil tries to test Jesus’ faith in God, quoting Psalm 91 which says that God will send angels to guard him and hold him and prevent him from treading on a stone. Jesus, in a lesson for all of us, reminds us that we should never put God to the test. We know that God loves us; that should be enough. We should never put ourselves in deliberate danger to test that love.

As we start our 40 days of Lent this year, our faith is being tested yet again. We are still trying to manage Covid, although now we are trying to manage it with fewer Government restrictions; but added to this the spectre of war hangs over our continent. We see what happens when man gives in to that lust for power.

Our parents and grandparents saw what happened in the last century and we are now seeing history repeat itself, as over one million Ukrainians seek a place of safety away from their homeland. Just like the Covid crisis we are seeing amazing acts of kindness exhibited towards our fellow man. Local collection points have had to ask people to stop bringing items for the refugees because of the generosity that has been displayed. The sight of hundreds of people gathering at railway stations in Germany, with welcome signs offering to put refugees up in their own homes is amazing. The countries around Ukraine, which have sprung into action to welcome the refugees is an outpouring of God’s love for the stranger. Many of these countries were the front line the last time Europe imploded into war; and many will be wary that the Russians may not stop at Ukraine.

The appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee; which Cafod1 is part of; raised £55M in the first day. Pope Francis asked us to dedicate Ash Wednesday to fasting and praying for peace in the Ukraine. We need to keep those prayers going and pray for all of the people affected by this war.

In the first reading today, we hear how when we make an offering to God it is not to be an afterthought. Moses instructed the people to give the first fruits of the land God gave to them back to the Lord. This is a message to us to be generous when we give. God has given us everything we have, and we should give back to God with a cheerful heart.

The psalm used this Sunday gives us hope in difficult times. As Jesus was in the wilderness he was not alone while the devil tempted him; the Father was there to comfort Him. The psalm cries out in prayer, ‘be near me O Lord in my distress.’ We do well to remember this in times of distress. At this time when Europe and the world are in distress because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We say this prayer again, ‘Be near us O Lord in our time of distress. The wilderness is not a time when we are alone. Jesus knows what it is like to be in the wilderness; therefore, He accompanies us; never more so than when we are in distress.

St Paul in the second reading today, reminds us that God is for everyone who believes and confesses that Jesus is the Christ. At times like this; more than any other time; we are called to put our faith into action. If we can donate money we should donate money, if we can donate goods which are needed then we should donate those goods, if we can donate our time to help, then we should donate our time. But ALL of us as a minimum should be storming heaven with prayer for peace. That is something we can all do.

At the end of the Gospel today we hear that when the devil had failed in his temptation of Jesus he left to return at the appointed time. When we reach Holy Week, we will hear how the devil gets involved. He tempted Judas and Judas did not have the personal strength to resist temptation; despite being an apostle of the Lord. He tempted the High Priests by preying on their fears and they gave in to the temptation inciting the crowds to do likewise. He also tempted the two others being crucified alongside Jesus, one gave in to the temptation, the other rose again in glory with Jesus.

Jesus does not ask of us anything that we cannot do, Jesus asks us to do the things we can do. He asks us to love. He asks us to care. He asks us to put our faith into action.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 394, 538-540, 2119: the temptation of Jesus
CCC 2846-2849: “Lead us not into temptation”
CCC 1505: Christ frees from evil
CCC 142-143, 309: faith as submission to God, response to God, answer to evil
CCC 59-63: God forms his priestly people through Abraham and the Exodus

Please keep in your prayers

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.
  • Those attending the Rite of Election this weekend.
  • Those preparing for and attending the Big Picture sessions on Mondays.
  • Those attending the RCIA course at St Bede’s on Wednesdays.

1 DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal | CAFOD

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (