1st Sunday of Lent year C 2013:
In the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the Church’s official daily prayer book, every day begins with the recitation of the Invitatory Psalm. And this psalm, like most psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, is framed by the reading of an antiphon. During the season of Lent, there are only two options to choose from. Both of which give us a great perspective on the season of Lent. One option is: if today you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts. This is a great way to think about Lent, a chance for us to be open to the voice of the Lord. But today’s gospel made me think about the other option: come let us worship Christ the Lord who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.
Today we hear about Jesus’s temptation in the desert, and I think the antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours gives us a key for interpreting this passage. I have always thought of this passage as somewhat strange: Jesus is tempted. But, Jesus is God, how could Jesus really be tempted? Well, in an amazing way, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, truly becomes fully human. He experiences everything we experience; he is like us in all things, but sin. So, Jesus is truly tempted, and this shows us the fullness of his humanity, but we might still be left with a question: why would Jesus allow this temptation? Here is where the words of our antiphon come into play: for our sake Jesus endured temptation and suffering.
In the temptation of Jesus we see one like us in all things, and yet he overcomes temptation. Even though Adam and Eve fell to their temptation, even though we fall to our temptations, one like us overcame. When Jesus overcomes temptation in and through his full humanity, he raises all of humanity with him. Through his union with us, Christ lends new strength to fallen humanity, first as exemplar and through grace.
Today we hear that Jesus faces three temptations, temptations that might be part of our experience, and our passage shows us a way through temptation.
First, Jesus is tempted with bread. It certainly would have sounded great to have the pleasure of eating that bread, as hungry as he was. We too might be tempted by the pleasures and good things of this world when our appetites are moved. Jesus encourages us in our temptation: Man does not live by bread alone. When we are tempted by those appealing things in our life, we should make a conscious effort to think of higher things. I’m a total sucker for sweets, and this year for Lent I gave them up: so when I’m tempted to reach for chocolate I will employ the words of Christ: Jake does not live by sweets alone!
Second, Jesus is tempted with power and prestige. He is shown all the cities and lands, the devil says: I will give you power and glory. Rarely is it put so boldly, but aren’t we often tempted to power and glory? Don’t we want to be noticed, liked, and appreciated? In a way this is the Original Sin, where Adam and Eve placed themselves above God and his commands, taking God’s place, his power, his glory. That didn’t work out too well for them. What does Jesus recommend when we are faced in a similar temptation: you shall worship the Lord your God. Worship transforms us into humble people because when we worship we acknowledge that God is God and we are not!
Lastly, Jesus is tempted to throw himself down. This is an interesting temptation and Jesus’ answer is telling: you shall not test the Lord your God. We know that Jesus always did the will of his Father. Think about the night before he died: if this cup may pass from me, but your will be done. How often are we convinced that if God would just listen to us, we would straighten everything out? I always say it is a good thing I’m not omnipotent, because if I were things would be different, but certainly not better. We might be tempted to frustration and dissatisfaction sometimes in our spiritual life, we might be tempted to tell God how to be God; how much different is Christ: you shall not test the Lord your God.
So Jesus shows us the way through temptation, but he also gives us the strength to battle temptations. Especially here in the Holy Eucharist, we receive the gift of God’s very life. As the antiphon says, it was for our sake that Christ endured temptation and suffering, so that when we suffer, when we are tempted we might be lifted up by the example and power of Christ.