The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent is always the story of Jesus going out into the desert for 40 days and being tempted by Satan.
Saint John Chrysostom tells us that Jesus never said, or did, anything that was not for our instruction, and the temptations in the desert are no exception.
Because in the wilderness, Jesus experiences the very temptations that each one of us faces each and every day–the temptation to make idols out of pleasure, honor, or power.
So why did Jesus go into the desert and allow Himself to be tempted?
So that we, the baptized, will not be troubled when we are undergoing temptations ourselves. Because by His example, we know that no one is exempt from temptation, and that nothing is permitted in our lives that God can’t use to our good–because God “uses all things for the good of those who love Him.” (Emphases mine)
How so? Because when we face temptation, we can take comfort in the fact that God can use it to help us grow and get stronger in virtue, and it can force us to grow in humility–if we turn to God for help in order to overcome it.
But our issues tend to run deeper. Or at least I know mine do.
Because what I tend to do is rely on myself. And by relying on myself, instead of saying no to the temptation, instead, I add a brick to my own altar of idol worship.
My personal idol and recurring temptation is power. Not over others, but over the events and circumstances in my life.
I want to be God of my life. Not have God be God of my life.
And this results in a lack of humility where I “forget”–through either habit, or from willful disregard and disobedience–that I am merely a creature.
I forget the reality that God is God, and I am not.
Now, everyone’s altar is a bit different because each of us have different idols. But the end result is the same–our own version of a golden calf standing in our midst that we worship by giving priority to our idol–instead of God.
Every First Sunday of Lent, Jesus models for us how to tear down our altars and set aside our idols in lieu of following His example and becoming more like Him.
The question is, what will you choose to do? Will you follow Jesus and set aside your idols?
Or will you add another brick to your altar?
The choice is yours.