Study: Where in my life have I fallen short and failed? What lessons (however painful) have I learned?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the grace and strength to face temptations. Do not be afraid! This is an opportunity to trust in the mercy and love of Jesus.
Serve: Is there someone in your life who is struggling right now? How can you help them through this time of testing?
Recall back to your school days. No matter what grade or level of studies, all of us received tests as part of our education.
I remember once sitting in a class where some students were grumbling to the professor about an upcoming exam (I was angelically studying in a corner…). The professor stopped the class to say, “Look, there are lots of reasons for exams, but there are two things that are important to me: First, I need to know the limits of your knowledge. Second, I want to see how you can apply what you have learned to other areas of study.”
Those two ideas stayed with me, for what is true for tests applies equally to life. We experience tests all the time, and through these moments we discover amazing insights into our hearts. Being tested (or tempted) reveals the limits of our strength, courage, patience, and trust; it also shows how we apply what we know (such as our faith in Christ) with what we encounter (trials, disturbances, disease, fear).
The Scriptures today offer two examples of testing which result in very different outcomes. In the first reading, we see the weakness of Adam & Eve before the temptation of the serpent. Their choices resulted in separation from God and one another.
In the Gospel we hear the encounter between Jesus and Satan in the desert. The Devil tempts Jesus through three classic fears: the fear of physical weakness, the fear of being powerless, and the fear of death. These fears, which the Lord will ultimately face at his crucifixion, are rejected each time through Scripture and faith in God’s presence.
The lesson for us is clear. Like Adam & Eve, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s grace. Yet in our moments of weakness, doubt, and fear we can look to the life of Jesus for strength and new hope. We, too, can trust that just as the Lord overcame his testing, we can also find guidance and direction through our faith in Christ in our time of need.
Once we trust that the Lord will be with us, we can face our testings and temptations with a new perspective. These tests show us where we need to ask the Lord for help, revealing our limitations and teaching us to see our blind spots. In this way our temptations are simply one more opportunity for us to recognize the Lord’s grace at work in our hearts.