First Sunday of Lent
March 1, 2020 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

Today's Gospel says that Jesus, led by the Spirit, went to the desert. He remained there for forty days, in prayer and fasting. In the Bible, wilderness is a place of encounter with God but also a place of temptation.

After this long period of fasting, Jesus was hungry. It was then that the devil took advantage of Jesus’ weakness to tempt him.

The devil also chooses our moments of weakness and fragility to tempt us. It is when we are in the midst of difficulties of any kind that we are the most susceptible to temptation.

Jesus came to this world to combat and conquer evil and its causes. Romano Guardini wrote: “He knows that he has been sent not only to bear witness to the truth, indicate a way, to animate a vital religious attitude, to establish contact between God and man; but also to break the power of those forces which oppose the divine will.” Satan tempts Jesus three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which reprise the temptations of Adam in Paradise.

The difference between the first reading and the second is that in the first, a human being fell into temptation whereas in the second reading Jesus conquers the tempter. Jesus is the new Adam. The old Adam was defeated. Now Jesus is the victor.

Jesus conquered Satan definitively on the Cross. However, the power of the devil continues. We keep seeing diabolic things happening in the world and inside the Church. How can this be possible if Jesus conquered Satan?

What Satan and his fallen angels are doing is what defeated armies do before the victors arrive. They try to destroy as much as possible. Nonetheless, they have been definitively defeated. Satan’s power exists only where human freedom chooses evil instead of good.

We must fight this battle. However, it is a peaceful battle because we are already victorious in Jesus. It is like in the movies: we know who will win in the end. Our task is to accept Jesus’ victory, nothing more than this.

To fight this battle against evil and sin, we need to use the means that Jesus gives us. Especially in this season, the Church reminds us how important fasting, prayer and almsgiving are to keep our relationship with God alive. We are also reminded how crucial confession is. Confession is the remedy for sin, not only for the forgiveness of our sins but also to sanctify our lives and give us the strength to conquer temptations.

Let us entrust our lives to the Virgin Mary, who, more than anyone else, witnessed the power of Christ’s grace against evil, and ask her to protect us in our battles against all temptations.  Amen.