“Forty days” and “Wilderness” are both used symbolically here, reminding us of the journey through the desert in the book of Numbers when the seventy families of Israel zig-zagged in the wilderness with many temptations of grumbling, jealousy and criticism during which time God tested them in the Desert of Sin. (Deut.8:2 and Ps.91:11. Altogether there were seven complaints along the journey and this is the context of this weeks’ temptations. Another meaning of temptation is a test or trial. God also tests us so we need to learn from the past mistakes of our ancestors in the desert. We too are tested by God. There is always a Divine whisper even in temptation. Jesus was tempted right up to the time of death, so why should I escape? Remember we are gifted with free choice and can choose what to do with it. Can I still trust? Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know that you are loved unconditionally. How we live and love and make our choices is what directs our spirit to action.
Temptation tests my faith. It is a period during which I can clarify how to cradle my ego with love and to allow it to stand back and allow my True Self to emerge, allowing God to work through me. The small word if contains doubt and conditions and is repeated in all three temptations. Seeing how Jesus faced these trials can help us.
1. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf.” Jesus is tempted to go against his very nature, his very IDENTITY. The devil uses God’s words in a perverted way. Jesus’ identity is firmly rooted in his relationship with Abba, “the Beloved One with whom I am well pleased”. (Ps.2:7).
2. Self-preservation is at the heart of the second temptation. Led to a height, Jesus is shown all the kingdoms and invited to worship the devil instead of God. “I’ll give you all this glory wheedles the devil if you worship me.” “Worship God” answers Jesus who chooses to trust God. Can you love the love that loves you, even when your life is slipping away?
3. In the third temptation it is suggested that the way to fulfil his mission is to use a spectacular sign in throwing himself down from the parapet of the Temple. Beware of thinking “my own strength and might has given me power to act like this.” Luke leaves us in no doubt that Jesus triumphed over all these temptations. On Calvary the centurion said, “This was a great and good man” (Lk 23:47)
Jesus’ replies to the devil hold the key to the understanding of this story. By quoting Scripture to answer (Deut.8:3; 6:16; and 6:13;) Jesus stays close to God and reveals to us the deepest things about himself. He had total trust in his heavenly Father. Are we not called to radiate God’s unconditional love to each other and to those we meet without putting conditions on everything as the devil did in this story?
1. Do I allow the Spirit to guide me when I am tempted? Remember Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
2. Jesus can sympathise with us, having experienced temptations throughout his life. When you are drowning in temptation just allow the Spirit to hold your head above water and let Scripture be your life jacket as Jesus did. Remember to trust God’s love when doubts assail you.
Sr Dympna Travers O.P.