Fish get caught because they are attracted by the bait that was used to lure them. All they can see at that moment is the prospect of dinner. It is only after taking the bait that the fish realize that there was a hook underneath. By then it is too late. Being caught is the consequence.
I believe it is a useful image for us to contemplate when we examine the role that temptation and sin plays in our lives. Quite often it comes about, not because we willfully set out to do the wrong thing, but rather because we were lured by something that seemed like a good idea at the time. St Augustine when writing about the 4 steps of sins speaks about the first step being one of delight. The temptation placed before us cause delight in us. It is only afterwards when we give our consent and act on that temptation that we realise that there was a “hook” involved. By then it is too late. We have been caught and must bear the consequences of that choice. A good example of this can be if we lose our temper with someone, swearing at them and calling them names. At the time we might feel better but later we realize that we went too far and did not think of the consequences of our actions at that time.
In today’s Gospel we hear how after 40 days in the desert, Jesus was tempted 3 times, but he did not “bite.” The reason was he thought about the consequences ahead of time. He trusted in his Heavenly Father and he trusted in the Word of God. He knew that was enough and therefore did not need to be “lured” by anything else.
The Gospel story of Jesus being in the desert represents an invitation for us to take an inner journey where we honestly look at the role that temptation and sin plays in our lives. All of us are tempted to say and do things we should not do. If we think about doing something for long enough then we end up doing it. In what ways are we tempted? What do we need to do to overcome it? Do we need to give more thought ahead of time as to the possible consequences of our actions? Is our trust in God strong enough so that we do not get lured away by anything else?