In the gospel for this Sunday we have Jesus tempted three times by the evil one with temptations made in the form of "logical" suggestions, even with the quoting of scriptures for a dark purpose. Each time Jesus was tempted, he resisted, and used the same powerful source of truth to put down the tempter. Easy for him, though ... he is God. Much harder if you are a mere mortal.
At the beginning of this great season of grace, we are confronted with the reality of evil. It exists in the world as a force that seeks to undermine the work of God, a reality that prefers darkness to light, lies to truth, death, ultimately to life. It exists in our lives as a constant challenge to the invitation to be holy and to walk with God. We do not need to see evil as a serpent, as a dark and sinister person, or as the guy with the horns and pitchfork. These are all characterizations and images that give us something tangible to blame. Evil is much more subtle and sinister, it finds its way into our hearts as hardness, into our minds as doubt, into our actions as hatred, into our faith as pride and self-sufficiency. He tempts us with fear and the unknown. He leads us down the path of destruction.
Dire thoughts ... and yet, as children of the Heavenly Father, as sisters and brothers of the God-man, Jesus, as sharers in the very life and Spirit of God, we have been called to life, empowered with grace, given hope and virtue and eternal redemption through Christ our Lord. That is the secret weapon given to us so freely and generously by God - the weapon that empowers us to tell the devil where to go. Do not accept the temptation and then place blame, but rather stand firm in the life of grace and praise God. We can do it - it is within our redeemed human nature. The Prayer Over the People today says:
"May bountiful blessing, O Lord, we pray,
come down upon your people,
that hope may grow in tribulation,
virtue be strengthened in temptation,
and eternal redemption be assured.
Through Christ our Lord."