Readings: Dt 26:4-10; Rm 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13
This has been quite a dramatic week with Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation by the end of this month. I therefore ask you to join Catholics around the world in praying for Pope Benedict and the Cardinals who will shortly begin the process of electing a new Pope. On this First Sunday of Lent, the readings focus on keeping before us God’s story in our personal call to salvation through Baptism. Moses in the first reading exhorts the people on how God cared and saved them from the oppression of Egypt, and led them into freedom and salvation “with his strong hand…and gave” them a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses shows the people that their story is linked to God’s story of salvation and therefore the need to be focused on the Lord. In the Gospel, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days where the devil tries to tempt him to lose focus on his identity as God’s Son. The three temptations by the devil and Jesus' resistance to them set an example of resolve to remain focused. A temptation is a moment during which the devil cleverly tries to confuse us by showing us the possibility of fulfilling our selfish human desires. In such moments, the devil shows us how easy it is to get exactly what we want. He tells us, for example, “just click the mouse and entertain your eyes and mind on the Internet”! He persuades us to step out from ourselves to enjoy for a while! Looking at the first temptation, we notice that the devil knew that Jesus was hungry. So the devil cleverly shows him that it is within his power to turn a stone into bread, in order to satisfy his hunger. However, Jesus refuses to be confused; he refuses to go ahead, for "Scripture says: man does not live on bread alone".
The three temptations give us an example on how Jesus remains firm and focused by submitting himself to the will of the Father. He never relinquishes his own identity with the Father. Jesus does not let his hunger dominate him to the extent of using his divine power to change a stone into bread, nor does He give in to the possibility of a short-cut to glory and fame. It would have been quite easy to jump from the parapet of the Temple. This would have given him quick publicity, for people to know immediately that he is indeed the Son of God. Jesus is able to resist because he is totally united with the Father. As we begin this Season of Lent, Jesus gives us an example on how we too could maintain our identity as his followers and so overcome temptations. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) If Jesus was so tested by the devil, you and I will certainly be targets of the devil’s temptations. 2) The readings therefore lead us to find the best way of arming ourselves for battle against the devil by remaining close to God as Jesus did. 3) Lent is therefore a time to align God’s story to our story; a time to deepen our identity and relationship with Jesus.
©2013 John S. Mbinda