The Son of God rejects the temptations of other ways and obeys the Father's will
I, too, once went tearing along the roads of Spain, with the idea of making the speedometer register ninety kilometers an hour: how foolish! When I was conscious that for me, the horizon marked earth's uttermost limit, I suffered the disappointment of one who enjoys earthly freedom, for the earth is small and moreover quickly comes to an end. Man is bounded by narrow and limited horizons, and for him whose soul aspires after infinite horizons, earthly ones aren't enough, they throttle him; the world isn't sufficient for him, and only in the vastness and immensity of God will he find what he is seeking. You free men, making journeys around this planet, I don't envy you your life in the world; enclosed in a convent at the foot of a Crucifix I have boundless freedom, I have Heaven, I have God. What a great blessing it is to have a heart that is in love with Him!...
Poor Brother Rafael!... Go on waiting, waiting with that sweet serenity which sure hope gives. Keep calm, unshaken, a prisoner of your God at the foot of his tabernacle. Listen to the distant uproar coming from men enjoying a few short days of freedom in the world, listen from afar to their voices, their laughter, their lamentations, their wars. Listen, and meditate for a moment. Meditate on a God who is infinite, who made the earth and mankind, He, the supreme Lord of skies and lands, rivers and seas, who in an instant, simply by willing it created out of the void all that exists.
Mediate for a moment on the life of Christ and you will see that it has no freedom, no outcry or clamor; you will see the Son of God subject to humankind, you will see Jesus, obedient, submissive, and with what steadfast calm he keeps as the only law of his life the fulfillment of the Father's will. And lastly, look on Christ nailed to a cross. And we talk of freedom!
Lent is a time to break from our regular routine in life and focus more upon God. It is a time to take stock of my relationship with God and seek new ways to give Him top priority. Lent is a time to recall that I often forget Him, ignore Him, turn my back on Him and sin against Him. It is a time to beg for forgiveness, promise to live differently and prepare ourselves for the new life of Easter.
On this first Sunday of Lent, our faith is strengthened by the fact that Jesus was tempted. The great truth of Christianity that Jesus took upon Himself our human condition, initiated by His birth in a stable and confirmed by His baptism in the Jordan, is further manifest by the fact that the Spirit led Him into the desert where, after 40 days of prayer and fasting, Jesus was tempted by the devil. Jesus fully and completely became like us in all things but sin.
Each of the three ways that Jesus was tempted speaks loudly to us as Jesus followers. First, the devil tries to attack Jesus by means of the tremendous hunger he was experiencing at the end of His period of fasting in the desert. If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. The devil is tempting Jesus to misuse His power for His personal benefit. Jesus response suggests that He wants us to beware of the fact that we are both physical and spiritual beings, we have a body and a soul. It is too easy to focus on the body and its needs while neglecting the soul and its needs. One does not live on bread alone.
Each human person has a need for God that is just as important, indeed truly more important, than our bodys need for its daily bread. We need to nourish the soul with Jesus, the bread of life. We need to nourish our hearts and our homes with faith, charity, joy and peace that come from Christ.
The devils second temptation is also quite clever. He gives Jesus a glimpse of all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant and offers Him all this power and glory if only He will bow down to worship the devil. First of all, this power and glory are not the devils to give away. Additionally, Satan bids Jesus compromise the Fathers plan by taking an ineffective short cut to His mission to redeem the world. Jesus response is clear and precise: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.
Human beings are incomplete and off track unless we worship the Lord God Almighty and Him alone. This speaks volumes about our need to gather in fellowship on Sundays to worship God. It also addresses our need on a daily basis to pray, offer our lives to God, and strive wholeheartedly to live in union with Jesus.
Finally, the devil stoops even lower in his effort to tempt Jesus by quoting the sacred Scriptures. The devil invites Our Lord to abuse His power for the sake of show. He takes the Lord up onto the parapet of the temple and asks Him to throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you. Jesus sees this test for what it is and responds, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
This third test translates for us into the temptation to the sin of presumption when we do stupid and/or sinful things, knowing in advance that it is wrong, and banking on Gods goodness. We presume that God will forgive us and take care of us. It is a sin of ingratitude and of pride. To sin is to offend our gracious God; to sin assuming in advance God will forgive is really to sin twice.
Today, our faith teaches us that Jesus was truly tempted in the desert. It is comforting to know that Jesus understands this aspect of our daily lives. Jesus shows by example that one can confront temptation and, by the grace of God, chose the way of the Lord. We dont have to give in to temptation. The way of Christ, which is the way of love, truth and virtue, is the path to happiness and to the fullness of life. This Lent, lets strive to give God top priority in our lives and remember that man does not live on bread alone.
Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.