Resisting Temptation

Driven into the Wilderness

Lenten Season Yr. B

First Sunday of Lent

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:12-15 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

I want to begin this Sunday’s reflection with a thought, ‘What would it have been like to be tempted by Satan as Jesus was?’  This goes without saying because we are tempted by Satan every day, but not in the same way.  I saw that because Jesus was being tempted in a very particular way, in fact, His temptation was centered on His life as a human being and on His divinity all in one go.  Satan sought to over through our Lord right out of the gate! Here is an analogy I used to tell my students in elementary school. We as human beings are like a raw metal that is filled with impurities. God seeks through our lives and experience to drive those impurities out through a series of lessons that burn away those impurities only to give us cooling down periods which serves to toughen us up. From the purification fires to the cooling down faith forming waters over and over we follow this cycle all the days of our life.

However, Jesus was born without sin, He was already pure. So why did He need to be tested by Satan? (Let me know your thoughts on Facebook)

Possible Answer: Satan saw an opening and tried to take advantage of it. Because Jesus was both man and God there were two sides of the same coin, on weaker than the other. Guess which one was weaker – the human side right? Satan, therefore, sought to tempt Jesus’s humanity and appeal to his human desires. It is here where Jesus was most vulnerable as forty -days lingered on. Think of the world today if Satan had gotten Jesus through His mortal hunger to make the stones before him into loaves of bread? What would this world be like if Jesus allowed His humanity to stumble as we often do? But Jesus instead chooses to answer Satan with a quote from Deuteronomy, 8:3;

4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Reflection Question: ‘What example does this set for our lives today?’

The temptations of Christ was intended to test every facet of what would become His ministry all the way to His final passion.  Jesus would overcome Satan on both sides of that coin. Satan most certainly knew that Jesus in whatever form He chose was stronger and could destroy his hold on humanity, Satan knew that Jesus was that one High Preist that would intercede on man’s behalf gaining the favor of God as it relates to our sins. The very sin’s that condemned humanity from the very first day in the Garden. Satan’s temporary victory would be shattered for all time! Satan finally knew that Jesus through the very act of humbling Himself in becoming human would be able to relate to humanity, feeling every sorted feeling, every physical pain, every tempting thought to rebel against God. Jesus being driven into the desert was to clear His doubts about His final three years on earth, His desire to live over the plan of salvation; so Satan tempted Him. Each day Jesus walked the earth as a man was another day closer humanity could relate to God in a new and exciting way. All of which would topple Satans stranglehold on all of mankind for eternity. Jesus’ s very public announcement that kickstarted His ministry after His baptism was one that most certainly drove Satan to defend all that he had done in his rage against God, the lion looking pounced upon Jesus and our Lord took the brunt of His rath for all of us through those forty days of His divine temptation.

Let Us Pray

Let all Creatures Praise the Lord

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

Canticle – Daniel 3:57-88, 56

And from the throne came a voice saying,

‘Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.’ Revelations 19:5 (NRSVA)

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

57 ‘Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
58 Bless the Lord, you heavens;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
59 Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
60 Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heavens;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
61 Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
62 Bless the Lord, sun, and moon;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
63 Bless the Lord, stars of heaven;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

64 ‘Bless the Lord, all rain, and dew;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
65 Bless the Lord, all you winds;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
66 Bless the Lord, fire, and heat;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
67 Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
68 Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
69 Bless the Lord, ice, and cold;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
70 Bless the Lord, frosts, and snows;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
71 Bless the Lord, nights and days;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
72 Bless the Lord, light, and darkness;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
73 Bless the Lord, lightning and clouds;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

74 ‘Let the earth bless the Lord;
    let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
75 Bless the Lord, mountains, and hills;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
76 Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
77 Bless the Lord, you springs;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
78 Bless the Lord, seas, and rivers;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
79 Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
80 Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
81 Bless the Lord, all wild animals, and cattle;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

82 ‘Bless the Lord, all people on earth;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
83 Bless the Lord, O Israel;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
84 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
85 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
86 Bless the Lord, spirits, and souls of the righteous;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
87 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

88 ‘Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. For he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire, he has delivered us.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

Let us bless and exalt Him above all forever. Blessed are you, Lord, in the firmament of Heaven. Praiseworthy and glorious and exalted above all forever.

ant. Lent, 1st Sunday: Sing a hymn of praise to our God; praise him above all forever. 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

May the Lord bless you, protect you from all evil and bring you to everlasting life.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for us.Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’

Amen, Alleluia

Now go spread the word!

Reaffirming Our Mission

To Always Image Christ in Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul.

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Listening Faithfully Blog written by Brian K. Stark © 2009-2018

Reflection 5: Unchanging God of Love

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 59.9

Many times I have heard that God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath, of punishment, a God of testing, and of laws which placed many conditions upon His people. Very different God from the New Testament who is a God of mercy, forgiveness, and of love.  But I argue this point and ask you all to consider this about our God. Our God in heaven has never changed because he can not change, He is forever the God of love, mercy, forgiveness, and yes He is also the God of judgement and punishment, and from last weeks Reflection we see He takes no pleasure from punishing the wicked instead He only wishes them to turn away from their wickedness and come back to Him. This clearly demonstrates that our God is a God of many chances. Our God loves us, He has always loved us and the only thing that has changed is humanity. The greatest of all miracles can be found in this one simple thing, His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His love is of a different order than our love, and God seeks and has always sought to love each and everyone of us since before we where born. It is humanity that has changed, we have forever altered how God can respond to us and thus changed the conditions in which God shows His love in your life;

59 “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.” ~ Isaiah 59:1-4

In Isaiah we can clearly see that it is not God who has lied, spoken falsely, or have blood upon His hands. In fact it is our sin, our lack in faith, our indiscretions which God has had to deal with over our short history here on earth. Think of each lie told as a small needle which God has had to defend against, each word uttered to condemn an innocent person to death as a razor blade cutting away at Gods justice, and look at each action that harms another human being done purposefully as a sword thrusted into the side of Jesus and then you will have just barely scratched the surface to the pain and suffering our Lord endured upon the cross.

2 “And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would beborn blind ?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents ; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” ~ John 9:2-3

By sending Jesus, God again shows His unyielding love for all man kind, He finds the most awesome ways to prove His love over and over again. In healing a blind man who was blind from birth Jesus illustrates His love and mercy for us. This miracle is a two fold miracle, one that shows the power of God, but also shows the love of God. The lesson Jesus was teaching was that it mattered not to the blind man whether it be day or night, but as long as Jesus was in the world His light would penetrate every soul and make them see, even the blind who where blind from birth a medical condition which there is no cure. But moreover, this miracle shows that it matters not what we suffer, that God can take that suffering and us it to glorify Him, to bless us, and to show to others His unchanging love.

4 “We must work the works of Him who sentMe as long as it is day ; night is coming when no one can work. 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”John 9:4-5

The very notion of being the “Light of the World” is one that also proves Gods love, and the lengths He has gone to not just save us, but to also lift us up in His perfect love despite the many sins we have committed. The term Jesus uses is a technical one in heavenly speech, a term that Satan knows well as he was once the Morning Star in heaven. Jesus is the truth, the light, and all who follow will walk in ever lasting life. Satan, does not want this, so the scriptures tell us that Satan entered into Judas to betrayed Jesus. Think for a moment how glorified God was within this moment, think how magnificent God is to be able to shine through this great deception of darkness. Understand that God not just opened the eyes of a blind man, but of all men and women on this planet in that one moment of darkness, the light of the world indeed still shown through it.

Because we have so completely changed the scope of how God communicates, and how he sends His divine love to us each occasion is then an opportunity for God to prove His love in our life, even in times of our greatest suffering.  The bible points out four unique  types of suffering which we endure, that are in large part connected to our sinful nature, thus connecting suffering with sin. The first is found as follows:

22 “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” ~ Genesis 22:1-2

2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” ~ Deuteronomy 8:2

6 “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” ~ Job 1:6-12

In these three examples God uses person strife to work the biggest miracles. He uses every occasion to test and mold each one of us into a more perfect person. He tests us to prove our loyalty and love to Him, which is the true miracle and the prove of His never changing love. God tested Abraham by having him offer up his only son to God as a burnt offering upon Mt. Moriah. Though Abraham did not want this test he proved his belief in God and trusted in his wisdom enough to follow through with God’s request, even up to the very moment of raising the knife high above his head, only then did God send His angeles to stop him. Again, God tested the people in the hot desert for forty years to hone them and to test each one of them. To bring them from a complacent slave like nature to one that was sharpened in every aspect of God, even unto their very last breath would they obey to build a nation in hostile lands. Finally God shows us the test of love through the greatest suffering of Job. Here was a man who had everything, and in Satan’s hands was brought down lower than low and still he refused to turn away from God. We are tested in our faith, in our actions, in our words, through our suffering.

The next form of suffering God uses as a means to mold us into a more perfect person, to edify us and to raise us up higher than we where before, consider;

5  “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” ~ Hebrews 12:5-8

God chastens each one of us in order to bring us through each hardship, to prove his love on a personal level. God calls out to us and encourages the goodness to always shine through much like we see in Jesus upon accepting His divine mission here on earth.God Speaks about chastening his own son, and without this specialized attention we are like the lump of clay that has been cast aside. Jesus talked about praising God in the mists of your troubles, rejoice in your pain as God is always with you, and if you turn from this then indeed you have proven to God you are not one of his sons or daughters. Again this is not what God want’s for He prefers your heart to turn from wickedness and your spirit should have ever lasting life.

The third form of suffering we, (the human population),  have brought upon ourselves by rebellion against God, examples of this can be found  in the following scriptures;

22 “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” ~ Genesis 3:22-24

“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them. ~ Numbers 20:8-13

14 “All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased. 15 Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.” ~ Jeremiah 30:14-16

God punishes but takes no pleasure in it. In Genesis Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden of Eden because of their collective sin against God. This was brought upon them by their actions. We see this repeated throughout the bible as this theme is again brought forth with Moses and Aaron who are told by God to gather the people and strike the rock to glorify God’s love for them by giving them water to drink. But Moses does not mention God before striking the rock, and in essence stole from God the glory due Him. In the last example found in Jeremiah God specifically states His wrath and punishment is due because of the sins and increase of the inequity of the people. Our suffering is forever linked to our sins, and the increase of our sins are linked to our increased suffering. Again God takes no pleasure form this but He does and will bring you closer to His perfect love through all your trials and tribulations you may suffer throughout your life.

Finally the fourth kind of suffering is brought about specifically to show Gods might and glory which can be found in the following examples;

5 “‘Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?’ This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?’ 11 She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’ 12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'” ~ John 8:5-12

9  “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” ~ John 9:1-7

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” ~ John 11:4

In these final three examples we see Jesus using sin, blindness, and death as a way to communicate His love, Gods power and might, all which glorifies God in the Highest. Jesus over and over gives new life in each action he takes, this proves beyond all reason of how much God truly loves us, to what lengths God goes to show His love, thus proving He has not changed, His mission has not changed, but rather God has always been the God of love, mercy, forgiveness, and a God of many chances.

Amen

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