The Gospel Reading today is common to Years A, B and C. We hear the familiar story of the Temptations of Jesus in the Desert. Let’s situate this story in the life and ministry of Jesus. Having been baptised in the Jordan River, and joined by public sinners in a very public place, Jesus is led into the Desert to be tested! Notice it was ‘the Spirit’ which impelled Jesus to go into the Desert. In doing so, Jesus was identifying with the people of Israel (His people), as they too had been led into the desert by the flame of the Angel of the Lord, and remained in the desert for a long time after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt; they too were tested, and within that testing time, they were invited into the Marriage Covenant by the Lord God on Mt Sinai. That great event of Salvation had left an indelible mark upon the corporate mind of God’s people. In Jesus, we now see him being tested, as well as being empowered by the Spirit, which enabled him to refute the Devil’s Temptations, in favour of a life orientation of unconditional loving service. These Temptations were not just applicable to Jesus, they are the Temptations that have always harassed humanity…Here they are: – The pursuit of Power, The pursuit of Glory, and the pursuit of Avoiding Responsibility. These Temptations were knocked back by Jesus, but they came back to haunt Him many times during His life time, in various shapes and sizes. The same happens to us, doesn’t it? Jesus was nurtured by that special filial relationship with his Father during the time of testing, and at the end of this ordeal, the Lord God’s messengers ministered to Him. Let’s not forget that Jesus was like us in all things, but sin!
TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS IN THE WILDERNESS
1. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”
Jesus replied: “Man does not live on bread alone.”
1st Temptation: FULFILLMENT OF PLEASURE AS A LIFE FOCUS
2. “I will give you all this power and the glory of these
Kingdoms….worship me, and it shall be yours.”
Jesus replied: “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”
2nd Temptation: POWER AS A LIFE FOCUS
3. “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down for here, for Scripture says, He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you, and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case your hurt your foot against a stone.”
Jesus replied:” You must not put the Lord your God to the test”.
3rd Temptation: AVOIDING RESPONSIBILITYAS A LIFE FOCUS.
JESUS REJECTED ALL THESE IN FAVOUR OF A LIFE ORIENTATION
OF CONDITIONAL SERVICE AND LOVE.
Jesus truly identifies himself with all humanity, and in every age. Jesus did not have to go very far from the Jordan to be in the Desert…just a few miles walk, and in fact he was in sight of Mt.Nebo on the opposite side of the Jordan valley…the very place where Moses and the Hebrews viewed the Promised Land, after their long trek through the Desert. He was also in sight of Jericho, the salad bowl of the Jordan Valley….food, fruit and water a plenty.
The Desert experience was a time of assessment. It is a fact of life that good will always be tested by evil. If an undertaking, which is supposed to be good, doesn’t come under attack of some kind from somewhere, then its value should be reassessed. There is not a saint in Heaven, or a truly great person on earth who has not, or does not attract some vicious slander, or find their paths strewn with obstacles. Jesus joins that group in today’s Gospel, and still suffers within His Body the Church.
As we enter into the spirit of Lent, let us check out the direction and quality of our lives. How do we deal with temptation? Do we sustain our inner selves by responding to God’s life-giving Word through Sacred Scripture? Do we take ‘time-out’ (a mini Desert experience) to re evaluate the quality of our lives, or are we in fact being led by alternatives to the Gospel message? Do we make room for God’s Spirit, to bring to the surface in ourselves, the holiness that lies deep within? May the Lenten reminder of our fragility stay close to us, if we feel tempted to create an everlasting city within ourselves, or are addicts of ambition, let’s keep in mind. “Remember, we are but dust, and unto dust we shall return; turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel”