WelCom March 2017:
Parishioner of The Immaculate Conception Parish Stratford and retired Taranaki dairy farmer, Tom Gibson, reflects on this Sunday’s Gospel.
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be put to the test by the devil.
2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was hungry,
3 and the tester came and said to him, ‘If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’
4 But he replied, ‘Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
5 The devil then took him to the holy city and set him on the parapet of the Temple.
6 ‘If you are Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.’
7 Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
8 Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.
9 And he said to him, ‘I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.’
10 Then Jesus replied, ‘Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.’
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.
The Temptation of Christ
Lent, a moveable feast, occurs 20 days later this year than last year. This solemn, religious festival, which begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes at the Easter Vigil, is observed by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. At His baptism, Jesus entered the River Jordan before John the Baptist, when a voice from Heaven said: ‘This is my own dear son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Mt 3:17). The voice from heaven was a life-changing moment for Jesus.
The crowd quickly saw in Jesus someone with power and authority as His mission to change one world into another was about to begin. But before He could do this He had to pass a test. The Spirit led Jesus into the desert where He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan. Jesus, we know, was both God and man and because of His humanity, He was very hungry. On three recorded occasions, Satan tempted Jesus to: (a) create food; (b) use his authority; and (c) acknowledge another hierarchy. Jesus passed this test by responding as follows.
- 1. People cannot live on bread alone, but on every word God speaks. (Mt 4:4)
- 2. Scripture says, ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’ (Mt 4:7)
- 3. Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’ (Mt 4:10) Then Satan being defeated, left.
Lent for us is an opportunity for self-denial. A Church-supported organisation – Caritas – issues an excellent almsgiving programme.
While giving alms are infinitely better than receiving them; as a retired dairy farmer, I believed the Spring-calving period to be a self-imposed rural opportunity of self-denial. This period is brief (about 40 days), hectic and important; it places many challenges before farmers. These include the weather, grass growth, cow health, budget problems and the inevitability of not enough hours in the day, all of which encourage a greater recourse to prayer than any other time of the year.
While Jesus endured a period of suffering and hardship, the Israelites 1300 years before, spent 40 years in the desert, dependent on Yahweh for food and leadership to take them through the wilderness and to the promised land. While Yahweh was their GPS, His chosen people grumbled continually. They often thought things were so bad they wished they had never been freed from captivity. Yet Yahweh continued His love throughout.
There is much we can learn from the Exodus, including the importance of having an appreciation of God’s generosity when we are faced with trials. Remember Christ our Saviour suffered and died on the cross for each one of us. He is with us always. Recall the words of St Paul: ‘Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants of you, in your life in Christ’ (1 Thess 5:16-18).