At least once a year, we need to overhaul our relationship with Christ Jesus and make sure that we return to the right path to heaven if we had strayed and had become unheedful of the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual overhaul is strictly the work of the Holy Spirit as it is the Holy Spirit the divine Agent of Baptism.
The Holy Spirit descended in bodily form as a dove on Jesus after he was baptized by John in the Jordan River; and it is the Holy Spirit who anoints us sons and daughter of God the Father at our Baptism.
Those present at Jesus’ baptism heard the voice of the Father saying solemnly: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”
We must imagine how that solemn statement by the Father was treasured in Jesus’ heart and how it became for him a source of strength, resolve and steadfastness as the Holy Spirit led him into the desert to be tested by Satan. But, from hindsight, we also know that Jesus’ self-identity as the beloved Son of the Father remained with him up to the last breath, he took on the cross.
To allow docilly the Holy Spirit to overhaul our spiritual condition at the beginning of this Lenten Season, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and see him in the completeness of his humanity.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
We must avoid the pitfall of considering Jesus living with a “stunted humanness” buttressed and overshadowed by his divinity which would have turned him into a superman. No, Jesus is fully human and, as such, perfectly and totally able to sympathize with one and all our human weaknesses. The only difference between us and Jesus is that we are prone to sin because we are children of Adam and Eve who fell by giving in the very same temptations which Jesus overcame.
Alas, there are times in which the only way to feel some relief from intense temptation is by yielding to it. Imagine how much harder it must have been for Jesus since he never sought relief by yielding to sin! The temptations that he experienced in the desert were the same temptations with which humankind was tested from the very beginning: satisfaction of physical needs: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
This first temptation mirrors the first part of the tempting forbidden fruit: it was good for food.
The second temptation was the one of making an easy name for himself and becoming pleasing and popular: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down [from here].
It mirrors the second appealing aspect of the tempting forbidden fruit: it was pleasing to the eyes.
Finally, the most insidious of all temptations: to have power over other people. “All these [kingdoms in their magnificence] I shall give you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
It mirrors the decisive, irresistible aspect of the tempting forbidden fruit: it was desirable for gaining wisdom.
As we set out to overhaul our spiritual condition with full reliance on the Holy Spirit, we should become aware of Satan’s MO. When we were baptized there was no sky opened above us and the Holy Spirit did not appear as a dove hovering over us. However, he has never ceased to gently remind us that we are truly the Father’s beloved sons and daughters. The devil’s starting move is to sow doubt in our minds and hearts about the Father’s love, intentions, and words.
“You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”
The devil attempts to sow doubts even in the mind and heart of Jesus about the Father’s solemn statement of his being the Father’s beloved Son. But fails miserably.
“If you are the Son of God…” “If you are the son of God…”
Notice how what the devil suggests in testing our self-identity as sons and daughters of God is something good and sensible and needed; but it is not in keeping with the Father’s plan for us.
To take care of our physical needs is necessary; but it has to be done through honest and lengthy work, in due time and within natural law. Think, for example, about how many people are involved in producing a simple loaf of bread. To make a name for ourselves, to become famous in our field we must study hard, be trained with dedication, humility and patience and accept also our share of failures in the process. To have authority over other people we need, first, to be driven by sincere love for them and to place ourselves at their service.
In all three temptations: for pleasure, renown, and power we must follow the way planned by the Father for Jesus. It is the way of the cross!
If we really want to blow our minds, we have just to think of the intention for which we did our last good deed. Let us think about it…. How insidious the devil has been in his stealthy influence in our doing good! That good which we did for God or for our neighbor was done, hopefully for love; but that love was tainted (to a high or low degree) by self-interest, wish for recognition, admiration, and desire to control someone or to manipulate him/her. Then, think how easy it is for us to exceed what is the lawful satisfaction of our physical needs! Satisfaction of our physical, emotional, mental needs outside of God’s law leads us easily down the path to self-destruction and a lot of grief for many others.
Hence, we shall accept gladly the weapons that Jesus used in defeating Satan’s guiles: guidance from the Word of God, docility to the Holy Spirit and treasuring wholeheartedly our self-identity as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.