While Jesus was preparing to begin his public ministry – to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God – to be the kind of Messiah envisioned by His Father – he was tempted.
Tempted to turn stone into bread: to use his saving power for his own convenience. Tempted to settle for earthly kingdoms: to be satisfied with passing glory and majesty. Tempted to throw himself from the temple: presumably, to convince people of his identity and authority through a single, dramatic, headline-grabbing event.
Fundamentally, Jesus was tempted to be someone other than who God wanted him to be. Jesus was tempted to be a different kind of savior. Jesus was tempted to believe that there was an easier way to redeem, to save, to sanctify. Jesus was tempted to believe that there was a short cut to salvation, a “one-size-fits-all” road to redemption.
We can relate to this temptation. How often do we tell ourselves that we would be happier, healthier and holier if we were someone else? How often do we say that there must be another way, an easier way, a less inconvenient way to be a good wife, a good husband, a good son or daughter, a good sister or brother, a good friend or neighbor? The tragedy is that if we spend our lives believing that we’d be better off if we were someone or somewhere else, we never live the one life – the only life – that God gives us.
Francis de Sales wrote: “Don’t sow your desires in some else’s garden; just cultivate your own as best you can. Don’t long to be someone other than what you are; rather, desire to thoroughly be who you are. Direct your thoughts to being very good at that and to bear the crosses, little or great, that you find there. Believe me, this is the most important point– and least understood – in the spiritual life.” (Letters of Spiritual Direction)
Jesus was tempted to be someone other than who the Father wanted him to be. Jesus was tempted to forsake the authentic pathway of love for the hollow, devilish promise of a shortcut: Jesus was tempted to take the (seemingly) easy way out. However, his belief in God’s plan for him allowed Jesus to disavow the empty promise of a quick fix for the path that leads to true happiness, health and holiness.
As we journey through this season of Lent, let us ask for the courage we need to recognize the voice of the tempter within us. Let us ask for the insight to see the ways in which we are tempted to spend our lives wishing we were someone else. Let us ask for the grace and the strength to follow the example of Christ, the one who shows us that love is not about quick fixes or short cuts: love is about being willing to go the distance…faithfully, one day, one person at a time.