WelCom March 2020:
First Sunday of Lent – Matthew 4:1-11
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.
Gospel for First Sunday of Lent
A Reflection on Matthew 4:1-11
Elizabeth Julian rsm
What about a daily chocolate or coffee fix or an alcohol fix? Should we give it up for Lent or is that childish nonsense? What is the purpose of such practices of self-denial?
The gospel for the first Sunday of Lent indicates that Lent is a period of testing. It tells us Jesus experienced the same temptations as we do: pride, greed and pleasure. What’s more Matthew suggests they were ongoing for Jesus, not just a desert experience. As Jesus is dying, the chief priests, scribes, elders and passersby all challenge his identity as Son of God (27:40-43). Matthew has been careful to keep this particular identity before us throughout. In the Baptism scene, just before the Temptations, the voice from heaven proclaims, ‘This is my beloved Son …’. In the desert the devil says twice, ‘If you are the Son of God…’. He wants Jesus to (1) work magic (turn a stone into bread); (2) jump from the Temple – a fatal action without God’s intervention; (3) worship the devil in return for the kingdom – but the kingdom without the cross. Remember, Peter wanted that too and Jesus called him Satan (16:23)! It’s interesting to note that worship is the correct response to Jesus for Matthew, for example the Magi (2:11) and the women who meet Jesus after the resurrection (28:9).
We all experience temptations to pride, greed and pleasure, in a variety of ways. Little practices of self-discipline, for example refraining from/refusing/reducing chocolate, coffee or alcohol intake and so on, help build up our resistance to bigger temptations whatever they may be, for example to exploit employers/employees, put profit above all else, or engage in other harmful business/work/environmental/family practices.
Over time, saying ‘no’ can become a habit but, of course, our motivation and strength to do so comes from God. It’s only through God’s grace that we can say, ‘no’, and we can then recognise the angels in our lives sent to look after us in times of temptation. As Matthew tell us, ‘Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.’ May that be our experience this Lent.