As pop music groups go, you might think ‘The Temptations’ might offer the best cultural link to the gospel for the First Sunday of Lent. But for my money, it’s ‘The Nylons’.
Today, we hear Luke’s account of Jesus being driven into desert just before the start of his public ministry. So ‘Temptations’ would fit, right? But my musical memory is drawn instead to the accomplished a capella group, and one of their all-time best tunes – ‘Prince of Darkness.’ It’s an astonishing piece, both in its musicality and in the impact of its spiritual encouragement. (Check it out for yourself, by playing the YouTube video below.)
I was reminded of the power of the tune when I heard the opening prayer – the Collect – at Mass this morning. In it, we prayed that through our observance of Lent, ‘we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ…’
I realized that – for me anyway – one of those hidden riches is the whole notion that Jesus would be subject to temptations in the first place. Temptations are a weakness after all, are they not? A sign that we are not perfect?
Now, think about that for a moment: Jesus is Lord. Jesus is God. Jesus is perfect. So the fact that he’s tempted must not be a sign of weakness after all. Perhaps it is rather a piece of proof that Jesus is perfectly human.
And I was delighted to discover that Luke includes this delicious detail at the very end of the passage:
‘When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from [Jesus] for a time.’
Satan departed…for a time.
It’s easy to miss that little nugget…but my, what riches are hidden in those three words. They tell me that Jesus’ experience of the devil is very much like my own: The demons, the temptations, can be kept at bay for a while. But they always seem to return. The Prince of Darkness is very good at his work…and he’s relentless. He doesn’t give up, even when he comes face-to-face with the Lord of the Cosmos.
It’s an amazing thing to consider. Only slightly less amazing, perhaps, than the notion that this same Lord of the Cosmos offers us the strength to ward off the demons.
When we call on the precious name of Jesus, we discover – as The Nylons remind us – that the demon ‘has no power here.’ Call on Jesus, and even the Prince of Darkness ‘will be brought to his knees.’
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.