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Sunday Readings for Mar. 13, 2011 (1LentA)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
Nowadays, few scholars would view the temptation episodes as a blow-by-blow accounts of Jesus’ struggle with the devil. Rather, the three scenes are seen to constitute a figurative, literary dramatization of the spiritual combat that Jesus experienced through his ministry. It further depict Jesus as the obedient Son of God who could never be seduced into straying from the path set for Him by God.
In the Gospel reading Jesus was tempted thrice by the devil: command these stones to become loaves of bread, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, All these I will give you if you will fall down and worship me. In all of these Jesus was very steadfast in quoting the words of God in the Bible: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Jesus answered him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test and It is written The Lord, your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'" (Deuteronomy Deut 8:3; 6:16, 13) and in the process rebuking the devil, Jesus was extremely focused with His saving mission.
Jesus has just fasted for forty days and forty nights, naturally He was hungry, so the devil took advantage of this. Thinking that he would be able to temp Jesus the devil said: "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." Jesus rebuked the devil and 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. Jesus was in control of his mind even if he was hungry.
Relating this with our fasting with worldly things, how easily do we loss control of our minds and values just to indulge with the sinful pleasures of the world. When we let our cravings take control over our minds that’s when we start to commit sin.
On the second temptation: how often do we do good/charitable things with the hope of getting a reward from God or getting something in return, it’s like we do thing with strings attached to it. If we fail to get what we expect we get disappointed with God or to the person to whom we’ve done a good deed.
The third temptation is towards material things like money and material possessions. Isn’t it that sometimes we worship money? Money per se doesn't make us bad; it’s our greed for money that makes us bad.
Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to spend forty days and nights in prayer and fasting in a lonely place. Why was he compelled to seek solitude for such a lengthy period? Was it simply a test to prepare him for his ministry? Or did Satan want to lure him into a trap? The word tempt in English usually means to entice to sin. The scriptural word here also means test in the sense of proving and purifying someone to see if there are ready for the task at hand. We test pilots to see that they are fit to fly. Likewise God tests his servants to see if they are fit to be used by him. God tested Abraham to prove his faith. The Israelites were sorely tested in Egypt before God delivered them from their enemies. Jesus was no exception to this testing. Satan will surely tempt us and will try his best to get us to choose our will over God's will. If he can’t make us renounce our faith or sin mortally, he will then try to get us to make choices that will lead us, little by little, away from what God wants for us.
Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame not by his own human strength but by the grace and strength which his Father gave to him. He had to renounce his will for the will of his Father. He succeeded because he wanted to please his Father and he trusted that his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. Luke says that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). When tempted by the devil Jesus did not try to fight his adversary on his own human strength. He relied on the power which the Spirit gave him. Jesus came to overthrow the evil one who held us captive to sin and fear of death (Hebrews 2:14). His obedience to his Father’s will and his willingness to embrace the cross reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience. His victory over sin and death won for us not only pardon for our sins but adoption as sons and daughters of God.
How can we overcome sin and oppression in our personal lives? The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to be our strength, guide and consoler in temptation and testing. The Lord Jesus is ever ready to pour out his Spirit upon us that we may have the strength and courage to resist sin and to reject the lies and deceits of our enemy Satan. God wants us to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12) with the power and strength which comes from the Holy Spirit. Do you rely on the Lord for your strength and help?
"Lord, your word is life and joy for me. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may have the strength and courage to embrace your will in all things and to renounce whatever is contrary to it.”