When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: "A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me." You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: 'My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!' (R./)
Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways. (R./)
They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion
and the dragon. (R./)
His love he set on me, so I will rescue him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: 'I am with you.'
I will save him in distress and give him glory. (R./)
Now what does Scripture say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with he heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Since he was alone in the desert, nobody but Jesus himself could know what went on in his heart. The implication of the temptation story is that he had to struggle within himself to find the best way to live his life for God. We ordinary mortals will hardly imagine ourselves turning stones into bread; but in the first temptation Jesus seems to toy with the possibility of providing a limitless supply of bread for people, like the daily dole-out of food by which Roman emperors kept popular with their followers. But Jesus saw how a focus on food and drink can lead to forgetting spiritual values. "Man does not live on bread alone."
Next, being taken to a mountain-top and seeing all the kingdoms of the world suggests a temptation to become a secular messiah, dominating the the nations and having power to impose religion on people, like it or not. He dismisses this notion too, since people will enter into a true union with God only if they are drawn to it in spirit. The third and final temptation was to become just a sensational celebrity, since throughout his public life people kept asking for further miracles. What if he were to throw himself from off the pinnacle of the Temple and be unscathed. But he saw quite clearly that this would be just showmanship. He saw, "You must not put the Lord your God to the test!" as a warning not to be rash and superficial.
Jesus sensed that his ultimate service to mankind, the effective one that would endure, would be through suffering and the Cross, after which would come the crown. Without his crucifixion and resurrection his message would be forgotten. In every event of life, God is saying something to us too. The story of the Temptations is warns us not to let selfishness govern our lives. We need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, who continues to prompt our conscience throughout our days. Imitate Our Lord by taking up life's challenges, not with an air of gloomy resignation, but cheerfully accepting what providence may bring. Let Jesus be a major influence in our lives, reflect upon his words and actions with reverence and affection, so as to bring about an inner purification of our minds and wills.
The scene of Jesus' temptations is not to be taken lightly. Its message warns us that we can ruin our lives if we stray from the path that Jesus follows.
The first temptation was the decisively important one, which can debase and corrupt our life at its root. On the surface it seems something innocent and good: he is asked to invoke God's power to satisfy his own hunger. "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread." Jesus reacts surprisingly: "One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." What it means is that we should always seek God's will above all. At every moment one shall listen to God's Word.
Our deepest needs cannnot be properly satisfied merely by food and drink. Human beings need and yearn for much more. In order to help save other people from hunger and misery, we need to listen to God our Father, and let God awaken in our conscience a hunger for justice and solidarity.
Perhaps our great temptation today is to "change things into bread", to reduce the horizon of our ambition to fulfilling our desires. Too often it would seem that indiscriminate consumerism is our main ideal in life. It's wrong to think that this is the path to progress and liberation. A society of consumerism without limits gives rise to emptiness and meaninglessness. Why is it that the number of people who commit suicide tragically keeps growing? Why do we shut ourselves up in our gated communities, erecting walls and barriers to stop hungry people from entering our countries and disturbing our peace?
Jesus wants us to be aware that human beings do not live on bread alone. We also need to nurture the spirit, know love and friendship, develop solidarity with those who suffer, listen to ouir conscience, open to the ultimate Mystery of sharing, that joins us with God.
When we want to give in to any temptation, we will always find reasons, arguments and logic to support our desires. But when we need wisdom from God to challenge, question and walk over our temptations. Every year on the First Sunday of Lent we read the gospel story of Jesus being tempted by Satan. The message of the Gospel is not just about saying "NO" to temptation but about challenging the temptation or the tempter.
The first temptation was to turn stone into bread. Stones were in plenty around Jesus. If all the stones changed to bread, there would be enough food for a lifetime. The problem of poverty in the world is because so many people want to stack up and store money and material for a life-time. It is the feeling of insecurity. Jesus spoke of a parable of a man who wanted to pull down his barns and build larger ones but the Lord asked him 'you fool. If your life would be demanded of you tonight, whose will all this be?' Giving in to the first kind of temptation is like trying to accumulate for a life time when God wants us to live one day at a time. Giving in to this temptation will lead us to pillage, plunder, cheat, grab and snatch from others as much as we can.
The second temptation was that Satan would give all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship him. This temptation is all too evident from the growing power struggles seen in the world today and increase in violence and bloodshed; one religion trying to dominate another, nations trying to out-do another in economy and weaponry to become world-superpowers; cultures, communities and ethnic groups claiming superiority over another. This temptation for power begins at the individual level when we forget Jesus teaching 'those who wish to be first must be the servant of all' leading us to clamor for power, position and fame even at the cost and dignity of another.
The third temptation was for Jesus to perform a spectacular act of falling from the pinnacle and not getting hurt. This temptation reveals itself in certain dangerously advancing technologies where man is trying to play God. Technology is good if it improves the quality of life, but dangerous when the creature wants to become creator. When we rely only on our own strengths and intelligence we will discount God. All our intelligence put together still cannot stop a tsunami, an earthquake or the raging waters of our flood. Paradoxically, it is our intelligence itself that has breached nature's course and aggravated natural calamities.
So when any temptation faces you, don't just say "No", but question it as Jesus did. Liken your temptation to any of his temptations and seek the wisdom of God to handle it.
The threat of rising interest rates, more taxes and less welfare, huge amounts of foreign debt putting a strain on health and education spending, are a lot of what we've been hearing about lately in our media. All this talk about money, understandable as it is, leaves us wondering: 'Is this all there is? Is it really money that makes the world go round? Whatever happened media to human interest stories, to human relationships? Are our only values economic ones?' Thank God we still have the living memory of Jesus, and the stories of his teaching and example to remind us that there's a lot more to life than money!
Today we remember how Jesus kept God's highest commandment: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.' 'With all your heart' (with total determination,) 'With all your soul' (loving and serving God our whole life long) 'With all your strength' (putting all of ourselves at God's disposal.) The love of Jesus for God and God's people was total; but this does not mean that it was any easier for him to practice than it is for us. He too had to struggle to choose between God and self. The tension of it is spelled out in the dramatic story of the temptations Jesus faced during his time of prayer in the desert. There he spent forty days working out the meaning of his life, trying to figure out what God wanted of him. In the process he came face to face with certain fundamental choices.
First, the tempter suggests to Jesus, who was hungry after fasting: 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.' In other words, use your power and influence, not for others but for your own satisfaction, comfort and convenience. But though Jesus is desperate for something to eat, he will not dally with this desire, even for a moment. Instead he seeks nourishment of a different kind, relying on God's clear message: 'One does not live on bread alone.'
That was one kind of temptation, but the idea that next comes to Jesus is even more subtle and appealing. This is to use his intelligence and his charisma to gather round him the rich and powerful from every nation, and, eventually, to become a great political leader. It was the temptation to seek world attention and become a political messiah, a temptation to fame and fortune and empire-building. This attraction is the very opposite of what God has said in Scripture about his chosen servant, the saviour of the world's poor and marginalised. God clearly means his Messiah to be a humble servant, a suffering servant, one who sacrifices his life in love. Jesus remembers this, realizes this, and takes it to heart. And so he blitzes the temptation with another clear and definite command of God in Scripture: 'You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.'
The third temptation of Jesus (according to Luke) is to go to the very top of the temple in Jerusalem and take a flying leap from there. A stunt like this will surely attract a horde of followers, and prove to Jesus personally whether God cares about him or not. The very thought of it is fascinating. Jesus, however, promptly puts the idea completely out of his mind as he remembers and relishes God's word: 'You must not put the Lord your God to the test.'
During his temptations Jesus was weak with hunger, but he still held firm. He hadn't eaten for many days, but he still said No. What mattered to him was to do the will of his heavenly Father. He treasured the word of God and was determine to live by it. Each of the temptations pointed to some selfish option that was contrary to his real mission. In each case, he resisted, to be faithful to God. We too are sometimes drawn to some selfish option or other, whether pride, anger, lust, gluttony or the rest. But if we turn to God for guidance, by his grace we too can stay faithful.