First Sunday of Lent
The words of today’s Gospel are stark and dreadful. Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert to be tempted by the devil. Satan knew of Jesus' habit of spending time alone in a secluded spot when he prayed and took advantage of this knowledge to use this time to resolve his suspicions that Jesus was really the Son of God. He set up three traps to catch Jesus and expose him as a fake. He waits until Jesus has spent 40 days and nights in fasting from food and water, from earthly comforts of companionship of friends and especially his mother.
Finally, the time is ripe, his strength wasted by the heat, lack of good and proper rest, the grueling conditions of the desert, utter loneliness and lack of food, Satan supposes that Jesus is an easy mark. Satan begins “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread . . .” Surely, the hunger and weakness Jesus feels will win the challenge, but Jesus does not fall for it. He responds: “One does not live by bread along, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Defeated, Satan then uses his extreme power to transport Jesus to the holy city to a high spot and again challenges Jesus, “if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down...” This was a double test, would he trust in his Father to do this, and would the Father protect him as it said in Psalm 91, that he would give him Angels to protect him, “Lest he dash his foot against a stone.” And again Jesus replied with a quote from Scripture, “You shall not put your god to the test.” Foiled again.
Then came the third and most powerful of all temptations, the choice to own everything created which Satan showed him by taking Jesus to a very high mountain. He says, “If you will prostrate yourself and worship me, I will give you all these things:” again Jesus trips him up, “get away from me, Satan… it is written: the Lord your God shall you worship and him only shall you serve.” That was it, Satan left Jesus and Angels came and ministered to him.
Jesus' commitment to his Father is complete, he would fulfill the destiny planned for him in spite of the pain, difficulties he suffered. We remember that Jesus' whole life is an example for us to follow in our own lives, he preaches more by his life than by words. We surely we know that Jesus could have dismissed Satan with a wave of the hand but he did not because of his love and faithfulness to the Father. This is the example he offers us in our lives. Where did he draw his strength and courage to go forward? From the Scriptures, sometimes called the “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph.6:17)
Jesus was committed to living the message of the Scripture. He drew strength from them just as we can if we make that commitment as he did. We have no excuse because he did this with his human will, and so can we if we follow his example. St. Paul tells us that “because he was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Heb. 2:18) Jesus was anointed by the Spirit before he went through this test and his strength renewed, just as we were anointed in our Baptism and will have the strength we need to live the life of a Christian to which we are called.
A grace-filled Lent to all and may we also come through it to victory just as Jesus did at its end, even though we may be tempted to say at times, “Father, if it is possible, let this pass away, but not my will but yours be done.” Amen.
Catherine La Disa, Associate