CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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First Sunday of Lent - An opportunity more than a threat

Every year, on the first Sunday of Lent, the liturgy wants to reflect on the temptations of Jesus. It presents the way in which the Master has confronted them to tell us how they can be recognised and overcome. 
 
The temptations is not a story of three isolated incidents in Jesus’ life, but three parables which state that Jesus was tempted in all points like us, with an only difference: he has never been won by sin (Hebrews 4:15). 
 
The first temptation: “Tell this stone to turn into bread” (vv. 3-4). The temptation that Jesus had was to use his own divine power to escape the difficulties that ordinary people meet. Jesus understood how diabolical this project was. He had used the power to perform miracles, but never for himself, always for others. He worked, sweated, suffered hungered, thirsted, spent sleepless nights and did not want privileges. 
 
The highlight of this temptation was on the cross. There he was again invited to perform a miracle for himself; he was challenged to come down. If he had made the miracle, if he had refused the “defeat,” Jesus would have been a winner in people’s eyes, but he would have been a loser before God.
 
This temptation persists, devious, every day, even to us. It reappears first as an invitation to a selfish withdrawal to ourselves without thinking about others. 
 
The second temptation: “I will give you power over the nations … for they have been delivered to me …”. The logic that rules the world, that governs the relationship between the people is not that of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–8), not that of the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26), but the opposite, that of the evil one (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
 
Authority is a charism, a gift of God to the community so that everyone can find in it his place and be happy. Power instead is evil, even if it is exercised in the name of God. 
 
The third temptation: it is the most dangerous because it puts into question the relationship between man and God. The diabolical proposal is made quoting the Bible: “Throw yourself down from here—says the tempter—for it is written …” (vv.9-12). The most insidious wiles of evil are to show itself up with an attractive face, to assume a pious stance, to use the same Word of God, which were crippled and misleadingly interpreted, to lead people astray.
 
The ultimate target of evil is not to provoke some moral failure, some fragility, some weakness, but to basically undermine your relationship with God. This is achieved when, in the mind of man, sneaks a doubt that the Lord does not keep his promises, unfaithful to his word, who ensures his protection but then abandon those who gave him trust. The need to “have proof” arises from this doubt. In the desert, the people of Israel, exhausted by hunger, thirst, and fatigue, have succumbed to this temptation and exclaimed: “Is the Lord with us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7). The people provoked God, saying: if he’s on our side, if he really accompanies us with his love, let him manifest himself by giving us a sign, performing a miracle.
 
Jesus never succumbed to this temptation. Even in the most dramatic scenario, he refused to ask the Father proof of his love. 
 
God has not promised to his faithful to protect them from the difficulties and tribulations. He has not promised to free them miraculously from disease, pain, but to give them strength because they don’t come out defeated by the evidence. 
 
 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
     Claretian Publications
     bibleclaret.org
     
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF