The Christians of the first generation were greatly interested in the tests and the tensions Jesus had to overcome to remain faithful to God and to live always as his partner in the project of bringing about a more human and dignified life for everybody.
The account about the temptations of Jesus is not a closed episode that occurs at a given time and place. Luke notes that when these temptations were over, the devil “departed from him for a time.” Temptations will return to Jesus’ life and the life of his followers.
Hence, the evangelists place this story before the account of Jesus’ prophetic activity. His followers must know well these temptations at the outset, since they are the same temptations that they have to overcome throughout the centuries if they do not want to stray from him.
The first temptation is about bread. Jesus refuses to make use of God to satisfy his own hunger: “One does not live by bread alone.” What is primary for Jesus is to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness: that there be bread for all. That is why he will one day appeal to God, but for the purpose of feeding a hungry multitude.
Today, too, we are tempted to think only of our bread and to worry exclusively about our own crisis. We stray from Jesus when we believe ourselves to be entitled and we forget the drama, the fears and the sufferings of those who lack almost everything.
Spoken of in the second temptation are power and glory. Jesus renounces it all. He will not fall prostrate before the devil who offers him dominion over all the kingdom of the world: “You shall worship the Lord, your God.” Jesus will never seek to be served but to serve.
Awakened also today in some Christians is the temptation to maintain, in any which way, the power that the Church has had in the past. We stray from Jesus when trying to impose by force our beliefs, we pressure consciences. We clear ways for the kingdom of God when we work for a world that shows greater compassion and solidarity.
Suggested to Jesus, in the third temptation, is that he come down before the people in a grandiose manner, supported by God’s angels. Jesus will not be fooled: “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Although asked to do so, Jesus will never perform a spectacular sign from heaven. He will only perform signs of goodness in order to alleviate the suffering and the ailments of the people.
We stray from Jesus when we mistake our ostentation for God’s glory. Our showmanship does not reveal God’s greatness. Only a life of humble service to those in need shows his Love for all his children.
José Antonio Pagola
February 17, 2013
1 Lent (C)