Gospel according to Matthew (4:1-11)
AT that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
The Gospel reading presents the narrative on the temptation of Christ. This comes after the Baptism of the Lord by John, an event that marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, revealing his identity as the Beloved Son of the father (Mt 3:17). However, the temptation in the desert is a preparation before Jesus could actually begin his public ministry—preaching, healing, feeding the hungry, and other deeds that proclaim the reign of the Kingdom of God.
Lent, which means “spring,” is a season when we, Christians, renew our baptismal commitment to Christ. And so something has to “spring” within us, that our life of following the Lord may be renewed. Like trees that are “renewed” during spring season, we should send out sprouts of fresh leaves, a proof of God’s nourishment.
Just as the temptation of Christ was his preparation for his public ministry, Lent season is also our preparation for the Easter. The Gospel reading reminds us that like Jesus Christ who experienced human “weaknesses and limitations” but sin, we can also experience temptations, and overcome them without sinning.
Enduring the suffering that temptations bring for the glory of God is our “participation” in the Passover of Christ.” We need to acknowledge and overcome our human weaknesses and limitations, so that we may experience the “renewal” that the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord has offered.
The temptations of Christ are the same temptations that we encounter in life. The first two temptations start with the phrase “If you are the Son of God.” This means the devil wants Jesus to prove his divinity. Moreover, in the third temptation, the devil claims that he is God, and not Jesus. In a way, we at time act as if we were gods by following our own will, and not God’s. We ask ourselves: “How do I manifest Jesus Christ in my life? How do I worship him, in my prayer and day-to-day life?”
The dialogue between Jesus and the devil offers us significant counteractions against temptations. In the first temptation, the true bread that can satisfy and nourish us is the Word of God. Material things can lure us and deviate our satisfaction, but they do not suffice. But the Word of God is the only bread that satisfies all hungers, because it leads us to eternal life. In the second temptation, the true power is trust in God. Worldly power can eat us to death, without dependence on God. If one does not trust in God, who alone provides everlasting strength and power, he/she is doomed to fail. Only those who trust and have faith in God can move mountains, and only faith in God heals and saves. In fee third temptation, unconditional service for others is the true honor, for it leads to holiness.
One might gain all earthly honor and be seen as the greatest person on earth, but he/she is seen “nothing” in the eyes of God, for we are all judged by the way we love.
We are, therefore, invited to “journey inward.” The Tagalog word pagbabalik-loob describes it well. By journeying inward, we can be aware of our own selves. We can be more vigilant against temptations. Overcoming temptations should give us more wisdom about life. It should lead us to be more trusting in God’s power. All these should naturally “spring” in us.
Let us be assured that we can always be renewed by our lord. But it also depends on our participation in Christ, for Christ alone can save us.
– Sr. Maria Cecilia M. Payawal, PDDM