1ST SUNDAY OF LENT – A
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After his baptism, Jesus prepared himself before embarking on his public ministry through a 40-day retreat in a desert. Nobody was there to witness what really happened during that time, Jesus himself must have told the experience to his disciples hence became part of the oral tradition of the early Church and eventually recorded by the evangelists. We may never know what Jesus did during those forty days and forty nights, but one thing is certain, he spent all that time in communion with his Father. Because Jesus was preparing himself for his work of redemption, the devil came and tried to stop him: there is no need for the cross!This is what the three temptations are all about: they are shortcuts to glory.
The first temptation is ECONOMIC. How would you feel not to eat even for a day? Of course hungry! Jesus did not eat for forty days, he must be really starving to death. For a hungry man, the most important thing is food. We cling to anything that will make us survive, no matter what the cost is. If the means are scarce, we even set aside religion and morality just to fill up an empty stomach. Yes food is one of our basic needs, but there is more than the craving for physical satisfaction: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” is the reply of Jesus to those who would justify unlawful means for the sake of survival. Remember that it was the Word of God that created us and it is the same Word that will sustain and continue to re-create us.
The second temptation is SOCIAL. We will do everything to belong, to be accepted and we even crave to be noticed, be applauded, be the center of attention. The devil’s temptation appeals to the spectacular. If Jesus jumped unharmed, what a wonder to behold! He will be an instant superstar! A universal idol! There is no need to shed blood, away from the shame of the cross. Wow! What an offer! Yes we need acceptance, we need affirmation but not through arrogance that feeds the ego. The devil’s temptation appeals to pragmatism and to make religion worldly. There are those who presume that God will catch themif they fall, only to prove that they have faith.
The third temptation is POLITICAL. Here the devil who is the father of all lies showed the apex of his arrogance when he claimed all the kingdoms and riches of the world and would offer them if Jesus worships him. Politics is about power, authority and control. Oftentimes it is a dirty game not just in the government but in the many strata of our society. The offer of the devil to Jesus is as real as it is now to those who want the easy way towards glory. Why would I study or make sacrifices when the world offers these things in my feet without the sweat of my brow. Sometimes, we never know, we are already entangled in the web of our idolatry because we have been addicted in worshipping our worldly idols. We are not sorry because we enjoy it!
As we enter into the season of Lent, the Church and each of us enter into a spiritual desert wherein we encounter God through the disciplines of prayer, penance and works of charity. These are the “Lenten tripod” through which we prepare ourselves to accept more fully the challenge of our discipleship. As Jesus’ disciples, we are and we will be tempted the way Jesus did. But if we are faithful, we will not succumb to the temptations but rather we become stronger and better persons every time we are able to pass over them.
After staying in our own deserts for forty days with God during this Lent, we are ready again renewed and re-charged to face the world wherein temptations never end.