Friday, 19 February 2010

Man shall not live by bread alone (Lk 4:4)

It is the first Sunday of Lent, and as such we read the Gospel passage in which Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, taken from the Gospel of Luke 4:1-13. "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit" (Luk 4:1 RSV). The Spirit leads Him into the wilderness and He remained "for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil" (Luk 4:2 RSV).

I think the first question we can as ourselves is why the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness?
I don't know if I can give the answer to the question, but I think we can learn something from the fact that the Spirit did. It shows that even being perfect here on earth, as God is perfect, does not mean that we do not have temptations or difficulties. Last Wednesday I wrote a small bit about the growing in virtue, and this Gospel passage shows that it is normal to have to work on ones dispositions in life, even if we could be as perfect as God.

The three temptations which the Devil brought forward, can be seen as very ordinary in ones life, and I will try in this reflection to highlight some small aspects of that and to give some material for further reflection.
In the first temptation the Devil simple challenges Jesus: "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread" (Luk 4:3 RSV) as "he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry" (Luk 4:2 RSV). So why did Jesus not just do that? I think is because He was in the desert for a reason, maybe to prepare himself in prayer for His active life, maybe some other reason, but there was one. Just breaking it off because He was hungry wouldn't fulfil it, but would be taking the easy way out, a break at the last moment, exactly the devil wanted, especially as it in now at the end, just before "the angels ministered to him" (Mar 1:13 RSV)

But Jesus answers the devil in a deeper way, and we see that the journey in the desert is not just an endurance test: "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone." (Luk 4:4 RSV) Jesus quotes a passage of scripture to show that it is not only about earthly things, but that there is more, and that there is a more important reality, the reality that God exists and that ultimately God is the source of all our lives. In prayer, in time in the desert, during our Lenten period, we more intensely listen to God and deeper our relationship with Him. We thirst but find our way to the spring to quince our thirst at the source of eternal life, so a source might spring forth in us and enrich our lives afterwards.

The second temptation is the temptation to choose power over integrity. The Devil shows all the kingdoms of the earth and says "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will  If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." (Luk 4:6-7 RSV). I always wonder what this authority is that is given. What does the devil mean, and is it just one of the many lies he constantly whispers in our ears. This temptation shows us to be careful with the temptation to power. Because if we really think about it, what authority does the devil actually have? Nothing, because ultimately God is in charge, even though it seems sometimes in the world that evil has a field day. Temptations and a desire for power, or authority will, I think it is safe to say, always lead a person away from God. It is contrary to the out flowing of love, but instead closes in on itself. It will lead to worship something else, maybe the devil, instead of Jesus... instead of opening our eyes to reality and look at His radiant face, we close our eyes to fantasy and put ourselves in the dark. There we can only stumble.

In the final temptation, where Jesus is standing on the pinnacle of the temple and the devil challenges Him:"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here" (Luk 4:9 RSV) we read that the Devil can quote scripture too: "for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you'" (Luk 4:10 RSV). I think this is the most challanging one for me in a way. The temptation in this situation, especially after for example being hungry and tired after the forty day period in the desert possibly while experiencing an absence of God, would be to ask for a sign. To throw yourself off the temple, wanting God to save you, forcing Him to make a move. Although maybe a bit of a cliché, in a way it is a lack of trust in God. This temptation I think I would often experience, when I ask myself why God does not act, why I don't experience Him as I did before, why he does not do something (which I think he should do). But instead we should take Jesus again  as an example, "It is said, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God'" (Luk 4:12 RSV): we have to trust in God!

Finally, "And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time" (Luk 4:13 RSV) It just want to close with this quote, as again it shows that we should never expect to reach a state in which we have 'conquered' the devil, in this life there will always be a return. But we can grow in virtue, we can grow closer to God, we can enjoy life to the full, and we can use the temptations in a way to archive this as with Jesus as an example and as the goal.

1 comment:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

Thanks for the thoughts. I,too, said to myself when reading this morning's Gospel, Satan has been given authority over this world by God. He is the prince of this world. But God is indeed in charge and this world will end and so will Satan's reign. It ends with every heart that consecrates itself to Christ the King. Satan is too clever by half, thinking he could, by his temptations discover who Jesus really is. As a child I always marveled at how Jesus always gave the perfect answer. I still marvel at it today.

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