The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

First Sunday of Lent, Year A - 13 March 2011

Oscar Wilde famously said that he could resist everything except temptation.  With this phrase Wilde managed to do two things at the same time.  Firstly, as was his wont, he managed to come up with another of his famous aphorisms and secondly, he managed to appear to speak about temptation without actually doing so.

Fundamentally, temptation is about choice.  Specifically it refers to the situation in which someone has to choose between good and evil or, to put it in Pauline terms, between the good that I should and the bad that I would.  Temptation includes the added element that the choice we should not make - if we are to be consistent with our life values - is very attractive or much easier or more convenient than the option we probably know we should choose.  Wilde, on the other hand, describes a situation in which he refuses to make such a choice and goes along with whatever seems convenient.

Most of our choices are of little or no consequence and so we choose what we will wear, what we will eat etc with no great difficulty.  This is so because the options are practically the same and do not really involve significant consequences.  Temptation is a very particular type of choice because it involves a choice which changes us.  To choose evil over good (or vice versa) involves us intimately because it implicates us.  To make such a choice is not about how we are on the outside.  It affects how we are on the inside.  Such moral decisions (moral because it has to do with our mores, the way we live) have consequences which can have a significant impact not only on ourselves but also on those around us.

In today's gospel Jesus is confronted by three temptations which amount to three choices that he must make - to prioritise his own needs, or not; to seek fame, or not; and to be powerful, or not.  Even if Jesus had given in to one of these temptations, if his choice had been different, just imagine how much that would have changed his message.  It would, in fact, have completely undermined it.  The gospel of love and forgiveness could, quite simply, never have been proclaimed by one who would have been so self-serving.

As followers of Jesus we also are faced by very similar temptations and must make choices.  These are never easy choices to make as, very often, we can see both alternatives in the choice as being favourable to us.  This, however, is the point.  Today's gospel passage frames the whole life and ministry of Jesus by focussing it not on the figure of Jesus himself but on Jesus in relation to those around him.  The choice that he makes in the face of each of the temptations we read of today shouts out like a refrain: "It's not all about me!"

Similarly, our faith in Jesus directs us to be constantly watchful for the needs of others.  We are challenged in the scriptures, time and again, to move out of our comfort zone and to seek the comfort of others.  This is a choice we make and like so many of our choices it can be very fragile because it can easily be undermined by a subsequent choice.  Our challenge is to change the song in our hearts from one that sings about how great I am to something like the song by McFly, "It's all about you!"  When we can look at our brothers and sisters and hear the words "It's all about you!" - not as a sarcastic criticism but as a way of informing our actions - our way of treating them will be different because we will see them as as our goal and be drawn away from what might only suit ourselves.


Article posted on 12th of March 2011

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