Gospel Matthew 4: 1-11
At that time 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 on bread alone,
but on 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. Matthew 4:1-11
In today’s Gospel reading we are brought to the desert where Jesus has been ‘led by the Spirit into the wilderness,‘ and has been fasting and praying for forty days. We would think that one would be weak at this point. To be in the rugged desert conditions without food or rest for this length of time, one would think that Jesus might be in a weakened state, which He is, and that is precisely why the devil appears at this moment in time. Having seen the state in which Jesus is in…he offers Him three temptations, hoping to catch Him with His guard down. Though Jesus is weary and reduced by the forty days of fasting, He is also strengthened by it… strengthened by the Holy Spirit that has led Him there. For at every turn of the devil, Jesus redeems three great failures of mankind.
In the first temptation, we find the devil, cleverly trying to create doubt in the heart of Jesus, with his words “If you are the Son of God…turn these stones into bread…and feed your hunger”… The devil is attacking Jesus on many levels. First, he wants to try to create doubt in Jesus’ head about the role of His true identity as the Son of God….the devil continues further trying to get Jesus to give into His hunger…to give into a desire of the flesh. But Jesus combats this with His response that ‘man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’…bringing us back to the Israelites and their rebellion against God and His manna that He fed them in the desert. But unlike the Israelites, Jesus does not rebel against the Lord for having ‘led Him to the desert.’ Instead He uses the words of Scripture to deflect the temptations of the devil. By doing so, Jesus is not only showing His reliance upon, but also, His adherence to the Word of God.
Next the devil tries to trick Jesus into tempting God. He is once again trying to get Jesus to doubt His importance to the Father…’throw Yourself down…surely Your Father will command the angels in Heaven to guard You’… Once again, Jesus does not fall into the trap of pride with these words from the deceitful devil. Unlike Adam, who was led by his own pride, Jesus understands His place as the servant of the Father’s Will, by refusing to bend to sin… He is replacing the first Adam…thus repairing the first sin of mankind…pride.
Finally the devil tries to deceive Jesus with promises of wealth and power. Jesus understands that it is not His place to usurp the power of the One Who sent Him. Unlike the Israelites, who fell back into their faithless worship…their idolatry, when they turned their back on God and the prophet Moses, and fell back into their worship of the golden calf. Jesus is able to recognize that all worship and praise…all glory…belongs to the Father. Again He uses Scripture passages to rebuke the devil, once again showing His adherence to the Word of God.
The timing of this reading is so perfect for us…Once again, showing us the marvelous ways of Our Holy Mother Church… Just as we are about to endeavor on our own forty days of fasting (maybe) and praying…we are given the perfect example of how to entrust our lives…our entire being, to the One Who made us…we can do nothing without God…His Words…His Spirit…these gifts of God are what will get us through…Not just these forty days…but our entire lives.…
With man’s pride and sinfulness, the Devil has done much to reshape the world, turning it away from God and His plan of Salvation…Satan uses every trick and temptation to ensnare man. We now have a world where God has been stripped from every public fountain…stripped from every public event…we are left with a vast and Godless abyss…where truths are intertwined with deceit...all in Satan’s desire to bring about man’s demise and God’s defeat…
It is here we find ourselves, as in the desert…trying to keep our thoughts focused…our minds pure….our hearts holy….What better way to achieve this, and combat the devil, than to renounce the promises of the evil one…and reclaim our place at the foot of the Cross….at the foot of our Redeemer….holding onto the Blessed Mother, and all the other Holy Saints who have found there way there.. allowing ourselves the burdens of this world…without compromising ourselves to its empty promises...and join with them who have found their way…their path…(the narrow gate) to their eternal salvation that only Jesus Christ can avail through His Most Perfect bride…The Holy Catholic Church.