Overcoming Temptation

Scripture Reading

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God
.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone
.”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”

Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
(Matthew 4:1-11)

Scripture Study

Matthew’s temptation narrative recounts Jesus’ spiritual preparation for ministry. ● The event contrasts the disobedience of ancient Israel with the obedience of Jesus, representative of the new Israel: (1) Israel and Jesus are both called God’s son (3:17; Ex 4:22); (2) the temptations of both Israel and Jesus are preceded by a baptism (3:13–17; 1 Cor 10:1–5); (3) Israel was tested for 40 years, Jesus is tempted for forty days and forty nights (4:2); (4) Israel failed its wilderness testing, while Jesus triumphs over Satan through obedience and self-abasement (4:11). These parallels are supported by Jesus’ three responses (4:4, 7, 10) to the devil taken from Deut 6–8. These texts (Deut 8:3; 6:16; 6:13) warned the Israelites against disobedience and reminded them of God’s provisions in the wilderness (CCC 538–39). ● Morally (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Matt. 8): Jesus’ victory sets an example for Christian obedience. Earthly life is a wilderness trial for God’s people en route to the land of heaven. Through this probationary period, God wills the faithful to overcome temptations from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Triumph is possible through penance and obedience to God’s word. Rather than earthly bread and power, the faithful must desire the food of God’s will and the humility of Christ (11:29; Jn 4:34). The battle successfully won merits heavenly comfort in the company of angels (4:11). The Church annually reminds us of this life-long vocation during the 40 days of Lent (CCC 540, 2849).

Scripture Reflection

The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent is the story of the temptation in the desert. At every point in the Gospels, we are meant to identify with Jesus. Jesus has just been baptized; he has just learned his deepest identity and mission. And now he confronts—as we all must—the great temptations. What precisely is entailed in being the beloved Son of God?

First, the tempter urges him to use his divine power to satisfy his bodily desires, which Jesus dismisses with a word. Having failed at his first attempt, the devil plays a subtler game—the temptation faced by Adam and Eve in the garden, to pretend to be God.

And then, last and perhaps greatest of the temptations, power. Power is extremely seductive. Many would gladly eschew material things or attention or fame in order to get it. But Jesus’ great answer in Matthew’s account is, “Get away Satan!” To seek power is to serve Satan—that’s the blunt point of Jesus’ response.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.