Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7, Matthew 4: 1-11
The first reading for this weekend is the second story of creation. God forms man out of the clay of the earth and breathes into him the breath of life. This reminds us of the image in Isaiah of God as the potter, and we as the clay. God personally forms us and breathes life into us. This puts us in a deeply personal relationship with God. One that calls of love and respect, from which obedience naturally flows. However, the enemy of God wishes to rupture these relationships and pull us away from God. This enemy will say and do anything to achieve this, he is known as the prince of lies. This is what happened to our first parents as the enemy, in the form of a serpent, tempts them to do the one thing God had told them not to do. The serpent is very persuasive and our first parents freely made the decision to act against God. With this the beauty and harmony of creation are disrupted and sin has entered the world. Our first parents traded the life that comes from God, for death that comes from sin. The rest of the Bible is God searching for us and calling us back to the life he desires us to have.
In The Gospel we see Jesus, the Messiah, Son of God, preparing for his public ministry after being Baptized in the Jordan by John. He was led into the desert by the Spirit for 40 days of fasting and prayer. At the end of these forty days he was tired and hungry and the devil went to work. Is it not the same in our own lives that our most intense temptations come to us after some deep religious devotion or experience? And don’t they seem to strike at us during the most vulnerable times? Jesus is given three temptations. The first is to satisfy his immediate need of physical hunger after forty days of fasting, to turn stones into bread. It was not the time for Jesus to eat, and he resists the temptation. The Second is for Jesus to prove that he is the Son of God. Again, Jesus resists. The third is to prostrate before the devil and worship him. And again Jesus resists.
The temptations of Jesus began with something that seemed so harmless, providing bread for his hunger. Temptations often begin with the simple act that doesn’t seem too wrong. The temptations then move to having us questioning our relationship with God. Does God really love me, is God protecting me, why are bad things happening in my life and with my family? The devil plants these doubts that can pull us away from God. The final temptation is to turn away from God and turn toward Satan.
Fortunately for us, not only did Jesus resist these temptations, his ultimate victory over sin and death is our victory. We can cling to this and find strength during our own difficult times. On Ash Wednesday we use ashes as a sign of our desire to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” Lent is a time for us to remember who we are, sons and daughters of God created in his image and likeness. We are called upon these days to fast and pray with the desire to draw closer to God. It moves us to repent of our sins, and to allow God’s grace to guide us in living more faithfully so as to be able to truly rejoice in God’s faithfulness to us and the ultimate victory of Jesus at Easter of Eternal Life.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.