Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Personal Nature of Temptation

I'm continuing the discipline of reading the Gospels with Bishop Gray this Lent. We are currently more than halfway through the Gospel according to Matthew. With a handful of exceptions, I don't know who all has taken this on as a Lenten discipline (I'm told that over 900 people have registered to receive Bishop Gray's reflections on what we're reading via e-mail). Even so, I quickly discovered that this has given me a sense of connection with my bishop and with others around the diocese (and beyond). I think this is a wonderfully fitting thing for a bishop to do!

I was recently struck by Bishop Gray's reflections on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11. He wrote:

Matthew gives us the specifics of Jesus' temptation and trials in the wilderness. The depiction of Satan as a companion with Jesus in the wilderness is troubling to many. And yet, the gift of the tradition in portraying the tempter as a person is a reminder that the temptations in our lives to turn away from God are all very personal. There are very few generic temptations in my life. What is held before me as an alternative to God always speaks to the particulars of my life. Evil always seems to be very personal with a knowledge of my very particular weaknesses. The personal figure of Satan seems to fit that reality quite well.

"There are very few generic temptations in my life. ... Evil always seems to be very personal with a knowledge of my very particular weaknesses."

This strikes me as a truthful corrective to those who balk at the very idea of Satan. It is also a helpful entryway into the work of self-examination.

What are the particular weaknesses in our lives that create opportunities for sin? And what needs to change so that, following Jesus' example in the wilderness, we can resist those very personal temptations?

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