Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:12-15) starts off with a very powerful sentence: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”
Two very profound points are made in this statement.
First, the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out into the desert– where He will be tempted! This is quite a thought. The Holy Spirit knew that Jesus could handle the temptation, and that He could grow in that temptation; this is why the Spirit “drove” Our LORD into the desert! The Spirit didn’t lead Christ into the desert; He didn’t tell Christ to go to the desert. He DROVE Christ into the desert! Wow.
Perhaps this is why God made us human. Sometimes, our emotions drive us into the very desert of our hearts. Perhaps God created us this way because He wanted us to be at this place at times so that we could grow closer to Him: He Who is the only oasis in this vast, arid, empty land of our broken hearts. This is where we are tempted to sin and, worse yet, despair over that sin.
Yet this precisely where God wants us to be sometimes: in the face of sin. For it is only when we arrive at this place that we realize that we are so desperately in need of Him, the Living Water. This is where He can heal our broken hearts– when we come crawling to Him.
Secondly, we must note from the Gospel reading that even Jesus Christ suffered temptations on earth. St. Gregory the Great gave a homily 1400 years ago nearly to this day in which he reiterated the fact that even Christ, the Perfect Man, underwent “the test” from God.
Yes, Christ suffered temptations even though He was the Perfect Man Who never sinned. This means that, contrary to what we may think, we are no worse of a soul if we face temptations. Rather, we must look to our temptations not only as occasions of sin, but as occasions of love: in them– when we resist them– we may grow in our love for God!
God wanted to show us what perfect human Love was; He did so by sending us His Son, God Made Man. Like Christ, perfect love on our end does not mean never facing temptations. Perfect love on our end means battling those temptations like Christ did and try our best to love like Perfect Love loved.
When we fight to live a life of virtue, we show Christ just how much we love Him, and just how much His Passion and Death means to us! In this spirit, we may even feel more united to Christ when we face temptations. While we battle our own temptations, may we gain strength by imagining that we are side by side with Christ as He faced temptations for forty days straight in the desert.
May we always be humble of heart when the Spirit drives us into the desert of temptation. And may we always be wise, and continue on, knowing that we will find that oasis of Living Water– Christ Himself– in that very place. Christ is ready to fill us with His grace at the most difficult moments of our life– including our most difficult temptations.