Tag Archives: temptation

1st Sunday of Lent, cycle C

Consider how these reading occur in the desert…the quiet, the barren, the emptiness…

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26: 4-10

One of the greatest gifts the people of Israel have given the world is their assurance that God’s love is active in our lives – even in the negative times – even in our limitations.  How is this reading reminding us of this truth? 

From W&W, Birmingham, 125:

This was part of a liturgy of thanksgiving.  The people offered their prayers and thanks for the first fruits of the harvest.  How might this reading remind you of Eucharist?  First fruits were considered sacred.  Before moving forward in God’s grace, we must first pause to offer up what we have and give thanks.

The exodus proved that God was in relationship with a people.  The desert and God’s plan for Israel were intimately bound together.  Connected with this is the oldest ‘credo’ of ancient Israel.  It is a profession of faith rooted in the saving acts of Yahweh, their God.

  1. Yahweh established the southern kingdom of Judah.
  2. The Lord God delivered Israel out of bondage, forming a people in the desert.
  3. Yahweh gave them possession of the promised land.

2nd Reading: Romans 10: 8-13

Faith needs to be both deep within our hearts AND spoken out loud by our lips.  What did this mean to these early Christians?

To be ‘justified’ means to be in right relationship with God. To trust that our God claims us as his own. This free gift of God’s acceptance is just that – free, un-won, unmerited. In Jesus we find a God who assures us that his justice is filled with love. It is in responding to this love and acceptance – faith – that we find true life and power – a power that can live even beyond our own handicaps and deaths. (John C. Dwyer, The Lost Gospel of Paul, 43+)

Paul’s message is clear:  in order to become transformed, all one needed to do was embrace the message of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit, then would slowly begin the process of transformation.  Jesus proves this in the Gospel reading!  (W&W, Birmingham, 126)

Paul insisted that Jesus died once and for all people.  It was a complete act of gratuitous, unmerited, unconditional love.  The response to such love can be nothing less than the complete offering of one’s entire life to the God who loves so greatly.  Human beings are justified by faith, not by observance of the law or by their own merits.  It was a difficult message to accept.  Justification through the law was ingrained in the people’s consciousness and history.

This is seen in Vatican II!  “Following the desire and command of Christ, the Church makes a serious effort to present the Gospel to the whole world so that people can share in God’s love.  Everyone who is baptized is charged with this mission.  The Church works and prays diligently with great hope that everyone in the whole world will ultimately join together as the People of God, “  (Vat II in Plain English: The Constitutions, p. 38).

The Gospel: Luke 4:1-13:

Jesus said that “One does not live by bread alone.”  For what do you hunger? How do these things nourish you?

The Greek word for ‘to tempt’ – periazein – means to test more than it means to entice someone to do wrong. How is this meaning important here?  In Jesus’ day, devils were ‘seen’ everywhere. Today, we might understand evil and sickness differently. How can this story of wilderness and devils speak to us today?

Jesus left the desert convinced of three things:

  1. His power is for love; it is not to be used for self-satisfaction.
  2. He is called to serve, not to be served.
  3. He will not bargain with evil, even if it means suffering.

(From Mark Link, S.J. “We Believe in Revelation: Preministry of Jesus,”, 1989, Tabor Publishing)

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

During Lent we can remember that in a desert we are in a place of isolation and desolation where we need like Jesus to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit – we cannot rely on our own means to overcome the problems we face in a desert. Like Jesus, we can find God’s Word to be a source of wisdom and strength. Because of this, Lent can also be a springtime of renewed relationship with God – a time to allow ourselves to be warmed and strengthened by God’s Spirit.

In our desert of ‘daily demands’ and pressures we will find new ways to open ourselves to God’s power which will help us to ‘take up the cross’ of daily living as we attempt through acts of kindness, justice, and encouragement to ‘lay down our lives for others.’

Here is a great truth: what we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to help us conquer sin. It is not meant to make us bad, but good – not to weaken, but to strengthen, to refine and to purify. Jesus’ time of testing took place in the wilderness, an area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea called the Devastation. It stretched over 35 miles by 15 miles – a place of yellow sand, of crumbling limestone, of scattered shingle. Contorted strata, warped and twisted ridges, jagged and bare rock ran in all directions. It glowed with daytime sun and heat; it chilled at night with darkness and cold. It was a place of ‘aloneness’ and danger: a testing place. And Jesus was tested right after his baptism – right after the powerful joy of hearing, “You are my Beloved.” His call to react to all of this was the Spirit driving him into this desert. It seems to be sort of a law of life that just as we come to a high point in our lives we can then nose-dive into danger. Also – we should remember that we are often tempted – tested – through our gifts. If we have charm, a gift for words, a vivid imagination – these talents can also lead us to problems: false pride, sensations, lies and excuses. Jesus, too, was tempted to use his powers for ‘showing-off’ in stead of showing forth God – for compromising with evil rather than trusting in his Father’s love. Jesus was tested as we are. Jesus was strengthened to turn away from the path of sensation, self-gratification, and compromise.  As he will ultimately do on the cross at the end of his life, Jesus puts his life into the hands of his Father. (Wm. Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: the Gospel of Matthew, vol.1, p. 62-70)

The Spirit prompted Jesus and provided the scriptures that Jesus needed to combat his enemy.  The word is the weapon but the Spirit engages in the battle  (W&W, Birmingham, 130).  How might scripture be a weapon and the Spirit do battle in your life?

Gospel Commentary on 1st Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel – Matthew 4: 1-11

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is led into the desert immediately after his baptism.  “This is my beloved, on whom my favor rests.”  Notice that these words of total acceptance by God are spoken before Jesus had done anything of great significance.  This is critical to realize and remember as we enter our own times of wandering in life’s deserts (Wandering with God, Feb. 1993, p. 8)

Why would the Spirit drive Jesus out into the desert, especially now after what just happened?  In Mark, it says, “the Spirit immediately drove him out,” (Mark 1:12).Did Spirit know what would happen there?  It sounds a little harsh, at first glance.  But Spirit is not way outside of ourselves.  Spirit is within.  It is our deepest inner desire that calls us outward.  So Spirit was driving Jesus out to the desert because that is where Jesus wanted to be.  Jesus wanted that space to himself.  He needed the stillness.  His ministry lay before him.  He had a lot to figure out.  He needed to keep it simple.  He needed less.  Intentions were good.  Satan seemed to have other plans, though.

The word, Satan, has been used in scripture to mean many things: the talebearer, the accuser, the seducer, the one or the thing that separates us from God, that which brings or likes darkness.  What do you make of the use of Satan here?  (“the Perspective of Justice,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )  THE DEVIL is the personification of the wrong view of life, the wrong use of power, the wrong use of language.  His way is a lie; it is false.

FASTING can be a form of prayer for God’s help when making a difficult decision.  The act of fasting redirects the heart away from worldly activities and towards the remembrance of God.  Jesus was faced with a life-changing decision, so he fasted, helping himself be open to God’s word and guidance.  From what can we fast that could help us hear God more clearly?

Jesus was tested in the desert. But even there he continued to listen to his Abba’s words and to trust in his love over possessions, honor, pride. Jesus held on to the great love of his life. This Lent let us try to be again more like Jesus. May we re-balance our priorities. Jesus recommends this way: “Love the Lord your God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.”  (John Foley, S/J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

The tempter beckons Jesus to choose a new center for his life instead of God:  power (bread into stones), influence and control (throw self off temple), and exalted recognition bought at the price of false worship (all these kingdoms can be yours).  Jesus lives in fidelity to who he is:  gifted for responsible choices.  He refuses the “easy way out,” which leads away from fuller human life.  What are some important choices you had to make this week?  Why is the desert necessary for full human living?  (Breaking Open the Work of God, cycle A, p. 43-44)

Jesus left the desert convinced of three things:

  1. His power is for love; it is not to be used for self-satisfaction.
  2. He is called to serve, not to be served.
  3. He will not bargain with evil, even if it means suffering.

The word for tempt here in Greek is peirazein, which actually means “to test”.  Here is a great and uplifting truth. What we call temptation is not meants to makeus sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin.  It is not means to make us bad, it is meant to make us good.  It is not meant to weaken us, it is meant to make us emerge stronger and finer and purer from the ordeal.  Temptation is not the penalty of being a human, temptation is the glory of being a human.  It is the test which comes to a person whom God wishes to use.  So, then, we must think of this whole incident, not so much the tempting of Jesus, as the testing of Jesus  (Barclay, Daily Bible Study Series, p. 63).

Other thoughts from Barclay:

  • We must always remember that again and again we are tempted through our gifts.  It is the grim fact of temptation that it is just where we are strongest that we must be for ever on the watch.
  • No one can ever read this story without remembering that its source must have been Jesus himself.  It is Jesus telling us his own spiritual autobiography.