Entering Our Own Deserts of Temptation

Periodically in Lent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections by two New Ways Ministry staff members:  Matthew Myers, Associate Director, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder. The liturgical readings for the First Sunday of Lent are  Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.

           The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent tells the story about the temptations of Jesus in the desert. The wilderness is a classic place for confronting ourselves, a place where we analyze our motives, question our thoughts, desires, and behavior, and investigate our future. In the desert there are no roads or maps, just the time and space to know God and ourselves in a clearer way.

This is hard stuff. I don’t like to confront myself or question what I do or what I think, but if I want to grow closer to God and understand myself better, then Lent is a good time to do it.

Like Jesus, I find that I am often tempted to turn stone into loaves of bread–bread that is delicious, sweet-smelling, and good. I am tempted to reject the stone that is hard and tough and inflexible. I am tempted to love the bread and not the stone. I like those people who are “bread,” not the “stone” people. I like the people who agree with me about LGBT issues, not the stone people who need conversion to justice. But Jesus is asking me to love the stone people too. This is hard stuff.

Like Jesus, I am too often tempted to throw myself down from the pinnacle of the temple of life into the depths of work, expecting that God will catch me and take care of my emotional and social needs. At other times, I’m tempted to throw myself down into the pit of comfort and avoidance of responsibilities I don’t like or that feel too challenging, expecting that God will somehow see that it all gets done. I think Jesus is asking me to stay on the pinnacle of the temple of common sense and find some balance in my life. More hard stuff.

Like Jesus, I have been tempted to possess all the kingdoms of this world by having the good opinion of others. How crucial is the desire to be loved and respected, to be understood and thought well of, especially by those I care about. These are the kingdoms I desire. But Jesus is asking me not to pay homage to these human kingdoms for “God alone shall you worship and God alone shall you serve.” To believe that God’s boundless love and joy will fill me when I’m misunderstood and rejected—very hard stuff.

As we begin this Lenten journey, the lesson of the desert seems clear. Jesus went into the desert to know himself and his God better. He did not let temptations come between him and his God.

What are your stones, your temple pinnacles, your worldly kingdoms? What temptations do you find in your Lenten wilderness that will help you know yourself and God better?

–Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Kathleen Dillon
    Kathleen Dillon says:

    Thank you. I seek Gods will, hear Him calling to me, but do not understand what He is telling me. I am stuck in a purgatory of paralysis. Inaction. Please pray for me that I understand Gods will for me and get moving to do His work here on earth.
    Sent from my iPad

  2. Believe in God
    Believe in God says:

    Kathleen, to better and more clearly hear what God is telling you, may I suggest your going to the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass daily or at least as often as you can. In this way, you will hear the Word of God. The Holy Scriptures (the Good News) is God’s instructions to us so that we can better discern His will. The Ten Commandments and God’s Decrees and Statues are important to understand as well and to follow. Going to daily Mass and receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist makes us that more aware of our sins (no matter how small). Receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist humbles us and brings us to receive the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation frequently. This is a good thing to start in Lent and continue afterwards. It is a good habit. Instead of giving up sweets, giving of yourself to others (perhaps volunteering at a Nursing Home or Hospital or at your local Parish Church) can help you to listen more closely to what God is saying to you and where He is leading you. I have had spiritual direction from Catholic Priests most of my life and it has certainly helped me grow in my faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and to follow Him.

    Also, by humbly kneeling before our Lord during Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is very powerful. Talk to Him and ask Him to give you a sign as to where He wants you to be so that you can best glorify Him. This is important, Kathleen, that you glorify Jesus – not yourself, not society, no one but Jesus. Praying the Rosary daily or again as often as you can is a wonderful aid to help you grow closer in your relationship with Jesus. Asking our Blessed Mother for her prayers will always lead us directly to her Son and help us discern what He is asking of us. I think it is beautiful that you wrote “please pray for me to understand God’s will for me”. As sinful people, we are very egoistic and seek and even pray for what we want while failing to add to our prayer request, “when it is your will God”. Let us remember Jesus kneeling and praying to His Father in Heaven on the Mount of Olives: “Father, if You are willing to remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.” Jesus is teaching us how to pray, much the same as He did when teaching us to pray the Our Father. It is never about us, but about God. Kathleen, Lent is the time that we are called to decrease and allow Jesus to increase. One last bit of encouragement to assist you would be a quote from St. Therese from her book, “Story of a Soul”, which you may want to read during Lent.

    “Among the numberless graces that I have received this year, not the least is an understanding of how far-reaching is the precept of charity. I had never before fathomed these words of Our Lord: “The second commandment is like to the first: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mt 22:39). I had set myself above all to love God, and it was in loving Him that I discovered the hidden meaning of these other words: “It is not those who say, Lord, Lord! who enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the Will of My Father.” (Mt 7:21).

    Jesus revealed to me this Will when at the Last Supper He gave His New Commandment in telling His Apostles to love one another as He had loved them. I set myself to find out how He had loved His Apostles; and I saw that it was not for their natural qualities, for they were ignorant men, full of earthly ideas. And yet He calls them His Friends, His Brethren; He desires to see them near Him in the Kingdom of His Father, and in order to admit them to this Kingdom. He wills to die on the Cross, saying: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Cf. Jn 13:34). In the Old Law, when God told His people to love their neighbor as themselves, He had not yet come down upon earth; and knowing full well how man loves himself, He could not ask anything greater. But when Our Lord gave His Apostles a New Commandment—“His own commandment” (Cf. Jn 15:12)—He was not content with saying: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” but would have them love as He had loved, and as He will love till the end of time. In John 13:34-35. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.

    I too will pray for you, Therese and ask St. Therese to pray for you as well. May our Lord bless and protect you all the days of your life.


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