BILINGUAL REFLECTIONS FOR SUNDAY
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (A) Matthew 4: 1-11 March 05, 2017
“Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached him.”
As soon as a person is born until few minutes before his death, he undergoes tests of every sort. The doctors check the newborn to make sure the infant is breathing well and has not physical problems. Periodically parents take their children to be checked about different situations: heart, blood, weigh, intelligence, behavior. From kindergarten to graduation, teachers keep assessing their students. Regularly people pass the test, but sometimes they flunk. Evaluations of different ways are helpful to check our improvement; this is especially true in sports. God also allows the tempter to put us on the test. Like in the case of a physical or psychological test, if we show progress, we feel good; when we overcome temptation our faith becomes stronger.
Our first reading from the Book of Genesis tells us in an epic language the story of the first temptation, in paradise. Like if they knew each other, Satan, in this case the serpent, asked Eve, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any trees in the garden?” The woman openly replied, “It is only about of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ´you shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.´” Eve seemed to be firm. Then the serpent tried to convince her, “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” The woman was tempted and ate it, and shared her disobedience with her husband, and so he too ate it. They discovered that they were naked, that is in danger and vulnerable.
There is a parallel between the temptations of the Israelites in the desert and the temptations of Jesus. Both moments happened in the wilderness, which in the biblical language is the place of encounter with God, but also a place to be tested. Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist, when the Holy Spirit came upon him, and the voice of the Father was heard, “You are my beloved Son,” then he “was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
The first temptation for the Israelite people was about food: they complained for not having food, and protested against God who had taken them out of Egypt and let them starved. So is Jesus tested: “Command that these stones become loaves of bread.” The second test had to do with trusting the presence of God among his people. They thought that God had abandoned them. Here the devil asked Jesus: “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.´” The third temptation was if Yahweh was really God, and the Israelites constructed a golden calf as their god. Now Satan, assuring him the kingdoms of the earth, asked Jesus: “Worship me.” To all these devil´s enticements Jesus answered with the Word of God.
It might sound strange to hear a conversation between the Savior and the tempter, as it is normal to be embarrassed telling others about our personal temptations. Then, why Jesus tells us about his own temptations? Throughout the Gospel we learn that Jesus suffered temptation several times during his life: after many of his miracles when the crowd wanted to proclaim him their king, in his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, the night of his betrayal when he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass by,” but strengthen by prayer he added, “Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I.” Even dying on the cross he was tempted by one of the thieves to use his power as the Son of God. As a human Jesus had to resist temptation, and his temptations were real. But Jesus was faithful to his Father, to his mission and to his ministry.
For our benefit Jesus shared his temptations with us. He has just been baptized, fasted, and prayed for forty days. To us humans and vulnerable to sin, Jesus gives us the antidote against temptation and sin: the Word of God, and prayer. And this is what Lent is all about: to reassess our relationships with God, family, and neighbor, recognizing the obstacles and red flags on our daily journey. More than satisfying our temptations for power, temporal needs, and thirst for gaining the whole world, we need the power of God reading, praying, and living his Holy Word, and celebrating the sacraments. Let us start doing it especially during these forty days. Let us pay special attention to the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” And let us make our own Jesus´ advise, "Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test."