Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalms 91; Romans
10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13
THEME OF THE
READINGS In confessing our faith, we must recognize that human
success is a gift from God, and should be acknowledged
with a spirit of sacrifice (First Reading). This belief in
God is our salvation (Second Reading), and temptations can be
resisted only when the sovereignty of God is recognized (Gospel).
DOCTRINAL MESSAGE The First Reading offers us
the Israelite confession of faith given when the first fruits
of the harvest were brought in for sacrifice. It encapsulates
the God-centered history of Israel, in which the Lord raises
up a mighty people from a “wandering Aramean,” and brings
them to the Promised Land. The focus on God helps
to keep perspective, because without him, there would have been
no people and no deliverance.
confession of faith in the second reading shows us the
total confidence of the one who has given himself to
Christ: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.” Desire for salvation is at the root
of our religious experience. We know that we are wounded,
incomplete creatures, and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps is
not an option. Our faith is like taking the hand
of Christ who pulls us up from the mire of
our human weakness.
With this backdrop
of profound faith, the Gospel presents us with an account
of the first “Lent,” when we see Jesus in the
desert. His forty days of fasting and prayer present us
with a model of faithfulness as opposed to the faithlessness
of Israel during its forty years in the desert. He
is the totally committed Son, whose adherence to the Father’s
will is absolute.
Christ is the
New Adam, and this is clearly seen in the way
in which he fights against temptations. In Eden, Satan is
disguised as the “wise” and shrewd snake in the tree,
offering our first parents a shot at wisdom and immortality.
They fall prey to his evil suggestions quite easily, and
accept his offer with practically no struggle. They listen and
dialogue with the tempter and so succumb to his wiles.
What a different story with Christ! With him, the tempter
comes in no disguise, the mask is off, and it’s
open warfare. The New Adam shows a new way to
handle temptation: He blasts Satan away with his utter refusal
to entertain for even just a moment his malignant offer,
since he is so centered on the will of his
PASTORAL APPLICATIONS The temptations that Christ
receives help us to see where our own vulnerabilities are.
He gives us an example to fortify us in our
own spiritual struggles. While we may be hard-pressed to imitate
his example of fortitude (forty days without eating is not
recommended), his attitude towards whatever would separate him from the
Father must find an echo in our own spiritual efforts.
Jesus’ answers to all the temptations revolve
around his complete dedication to God. Perhaps we could look
at the individual temptations as symptomatic for different areas of
struggle that afflict us all.
stones to bread.” Material concerns are in the forefront of
many people’s daily lives. After all, if someone isn’t putting
“bread on the table,” hunger will become a real and
present danger. But Jesus’ refusal to turn stones into bread
points to authentic human priorities. If we wish to live
as Christ did, we must realize that we do not
“live on bread alone.” While our faith provides us with
no shortcuts for alleviating material needs, it does keep them
from taking the first place in our lives. If we
feed our souls on the word of God and, above
all, the Bread of Life, we will ward off that
hunger that is far more dangerous than the physical: spiritual
The second temptation is to power.
Pride is an enemy that wins many battles over us,
but not Christ. His total love for the Father precludes
any rebellion against his will in favor of himself. Our
desire for control fans the flames of our pride and
has us grasping for more and more. But Jesus teaches
us that our greatest power lies in our submission to
God. It is easy to feel the power of Christ
as he dismisses the tempter with disdainful ease. Despite the
counterintuitive sound, we are actually strongest when we are humble,
and when we give God the place he deserves.
Finally, atop the temple, Jesus refuses to put
on a spectacular show of his power. We thrive on
celebrity; glossy magazines stoke the vanity of VIPs and exploit
the curiosity of the masses. But vanity plays itself out
in many other, far more subtle ways. Many of our
actions, good ones included, can be contaminated with our desire
to be noticed. In the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, he
issued a stern warning about this, referring to the “hypocrites”
who make a big show of their generosity in order
to win the applause of their peers. The more we
can shift the focus off ourselves and more on Christ,
the more we will be able to live the spirit
of Lent. God must come first!