The Holy Spirit intended for Jesus to be tempted by the devil because God is intentional, never random. Temptation is an integral aspect of the human condition, and we recall that Jesus was like us in every way except sin.
Temptation may occur when we least anticipate it. Or, when we dally along the edges of the precipice, tempting fate ourselves while not actually wanting to succumb to the tricks of the
Thus, temptation may emerge from within us, threaded with our desires, our thoughts of superiority, or our insecurities. It may attack from outside our consciousness through rhetoric and stereotypes.
As disciples of Christ, the injustice that we recognize must not be met with apathy nor the lie of impotence. It must be addressed with mercy and love. The justice system in our country is poignant example, one that moves me deeply because it is a continuation of the enslavement of my ancestors.
“We have courts of law but not courts of justice,” said longtime political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal in his reflection on the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision which held that black people should be excluded from American citizenship.
Regrettably, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, mouthpiece for the court majority, was Catholic. The complicity of some powerful Catholics in perpetuating this injustice is a problem for me. The end of slavery opened the door to other forms of lifelong bondage, including the continued legality of the death penalty, disruption of our families, and depletion of critical resources in our communities.
At the same time, this injustice harms observers who are also concerned. Nevertheless, a seemingly intractable image of criminal blackness has been imprinted on the American psyche.
In contrast to those who fall victim to temptation, Jesus’ encounter with temptation only strengthened his resolve. Thus, with clarity of mission, he responded, “The Lord your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). We should be so bold with our words and actions.
How might we confront injustice that appears insurmountable? As we are able, we pray, educate ourselves, vote, advocate, speak for/with and visit those who are imprisoned and affected by soaring mass incarceration. We extend compassionate concern for impacted families and communities, returning citizens and victims of crime and gun violence. We can embrace a restorative justice mindset.
Begin by discerning where God would have you enter. Parishes are an excellent starting point for restoration and reconciliation, for engendering hope, and for building bridges of grace-filled engagement. May the Holy Spirit lead us to speak and act courageously for justice. As we reflect on the gospel for this first week of Lent, let us pray “lead us not into temptation” with full knowledge that the One who leads us has the power to help us meet injustice with justice.