Prior to beginning His public ministry, Jesus spends an extended period of time fasting and praying in the desert. The time did not deter Jesus from His mission nor vision. After 40 days, He encounters Satan who presents three challenges or “temptations.” The first is to turn stones into bread to prove Jesus’ divinity. In the Old Testament, God provided bread on numerous occasions. In the New Testament, the multiplication of loaves and fishes illustrated that bread was meant to be shared. Jesus’ miracles had meaning and purpose. Bread was such an important symbol that Jesus gives Himself to us as Living Bread. The Sacrament of the Eucharist remains to this day as a sign of Jesus’ presence with us.
What is temptation? Temptation is to stray from the values we hold dear. Temptation is to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to compromise our standards, to be distracted from the mission each of us is uniquely called to by God. For the second temptation, Jesus is taken to the pinnacle of the Temple, but He does not jump. The third temptation makes it clear that Jesus’ Kingdom is not a political structure. The kingdom of the world is not the Kingdom of God. The issue at the heart of these temptations is God; specifically, pushing God aside as secondary (or even nonexistent) and constructing a world according to a merely human vision. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI described this as “refusing to acknowledge anything beyond the political and material.”
We all have witnessed the devastating effects caused by the misuse of power and the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Our earthly journey is wrought with temptation. Temptation is real and painful. We may feel lonely, distraught and think that evil has gotten the upper hand. However, we must be vigilant and not give into the voices of the world. Jesus did not give in to Satan’s temptations in the desert and He personally meets us in our desert. Jesus is right there in the midst of anything and everything we may be going through and He will lead us safely out. Lenten Blessings!
Sister Marcella Louise Wallowicz, CSFN