March 1, 2020: First Sunday of Lent
Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
Then 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 by bread alone, but by 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.
The gospel of this first Sunday of Lent is Matthew’s telling how Jesus, after spending forty days and forty nights fasting and praying in the desert, is confronted and tempted by Satan. In his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, Fr. James Martin, SJ, reminds the reader of Jesus’ human as well as divine natures. Jesus could have “flicked” Satan away without listening to a word or thought coming from the tempter. But it is the human nature of Jesus, hungry, thirsty and probably very tired after his time in the desert, that Satan confronts. Jesus is tempted to satisfy his hunger. He is challenged to test the divine protection of God. And he is offered unfettered power and glory.
We all know these temptations! How many can say we have not over indulged in food or a buying spree, made a promise to God in exchange for a favor, or relished being the center of attention. Satan is not going to appear before us and lay temptation at our feet. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we know it when we see it!
Fortitude to resist temptation doesn’t come without effort. Lent is a good time to build our stamina and strengthen our spiritual life. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and scripture reading can help us to make the right choices when confronted by temptation. Which of these particular practices challenges you this Lent? What action can you take to address that challenge?