In today’s Mass, we hear that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Today is also the First Sunday of Lent. We are now entering into a sacred season of deeper conversion—a holy time when the Church invites all Christian believers to draw closer to Jesus.
We recall that Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God—the Eternal Word made flesh. Thus, Our Lord never sinned nor could he have sinned in any way whatsoever. Although his temptations in the desert were real temptations, Our Lord never experienced even the slightest of moral disorders in his soul. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, Jesus was “like us in all things but sin” (no. 467).
Unlike Jesus, however, we are sinners. We can suffer from moral disorder. All Christians experience temptations in their lives. Everyone knows what it is like—at various times and in varying degrees—to feel an attraction to things that draw us away from real truth and true goodness. It is possible for us to fall prey to the empty promises of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And this is a problem: it would seem that sin and disorder—and, specifically, our sins and our disorders—can keep us separated from Jesus.
Jesus was sinless. We are sinful. How can sinful creatures draw near to the sinless Christ?
Our Lord voluntarily underwent temptation in the desert to answer this question. Jesus was not tempted for himself or for his benefit. He was tempted for us and for our benefit. Everything that Jesus did, experienced, and suffered was “for us men and for our salvation”—as Creed reminds us every Sunday at Mass. This is one of the most important truths of the Christian faith. Jesus is Emmanuel. God with us. Everything that he did was for our sake.
How do we benefit from Our Lord’s temptation? Our Lord’s temptation reveals to us one of the most precious of truths: Jesus can draw near to all those who seek him—even those in the throes of grave trial or difficulty. Sin and temptation do not repulse Our Lord. Sinless though Jesus was, He freely entered into the dynamics of human brokenness. The compassion of Our Lord is supremely evident throughout each of the gospels. Jesus always draws near to people in their woundedness and in their disorder, so that He might give them His healing mercy and transforming love. And today’s gospel reminds us that we can draw near to Our Lord even in our darkest moments. He willingly journeyed through the mire of human experience in order to assure us that we can truly turn to Him no matter what struggles we may experience. Everything that Jesus did was for our sake. “The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love” (CCC no. 458). Thus, we can cling to Jesus, in love, no matter what difficulties we may experience. Nothing—not even the worst of temptations—can separate us from Our Lord.