Jakarta, 27 February 2015
A Christian Pilgrim
JESUS WAS TEMPTED BY SATAN
(A biblical refection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR B], 22 February 2015)
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:12-15
First Reading: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalms: Psalm 25:4-9; Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
The Scripture Text
The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:12-15 RSV)
Temptations are an ever present reality in our lives. They are not just temptations of the flesh, but also of injustice or dishonesty, e.g., unjustly paying our workers, overpricing, graft, discrimination against people with different beliefs, or different ethnic backgrounds, etc.
Today’s Gospel message relates how Jesus underwent temptations in the desert and how He struggled to overcome them, thus setting for us an inspiring example (Please read the more detailed version in Luke 4:1-13).
How did Jesus handle the temptations and how do they relate to contemporary life? First the tempter was sweet-talking Jesus to use His powers for His own personal aggrandizement. “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to turn into loaves” (Luke 4:3). There is always the temptation for us to use selfishly whatever powers or talents God has given us. A person, for instance, may possess an innate ability to sing. She/he may “cash in on it,” refusing to use it unless she/he is paid. There is no reason why she/he should not use it for pay, but there is no reason too why she/he should use it “only” for pay! This can apply to other gifts like intelligence, business acumen, artistic skill.
But there is another side to this temptation. Jesus was God’s Messiah, and He knew it. The question was: What “method” would He use for the task which God had given Him to do? One sure way to attract people to turn to God was to give them bread, to give material enticements. However, it would have been a serious mistake. For one thing that would have been bribing people to follow Him which, no doubt, would be the easy way. It would have made Him popular but it was not the right way. What Jesus offered was the hard way – the cross.
In the second temptation, Jesus was challenged by the devil to “throw Himself down (the parapet of the Temple) but would not get hurt since the angels would rescue you.” In short, do something sensational. Make miracles. Most people have a penchant for the extraordinary and miraculous. Thus some people take great pains to travel to distant shrines like Medjugorje to boost their faith – in the process contribute to the thriving business of travel agencies!
The trouble is that we’re so drawn to the extraordinary and miraculous that we overlook the many “miracles of faith” that are happening quietly in the day-to-day struggles of life. For instance, isn’t it a miracle that strong, happy families survive in an environment of broken marriages? Or isn’t it a divine wonder that not a few Christians keep their religious convictions, practise honesty, compassion, altruism despite an environment of dishonesty, injustice and greed?
The tempter’s third avenue of assault was for Jesus to “fall down and worship me, and I will give You all the kingdoms of this world” (Luke 4:6). In short “compromise”. Don’t demand too much. Wink just a little at evil and people will follow you. But Jesus slammed down the tempter’s enticement. There can never be compromises with evil. Evil cannot be defeated by compromising with evil.
Finally, remember one very important thing. Temptation often comes not at our strongest, but at our weakest moments, that is, when we are at the limits of our patience or kindness, when we are under pressure. So be on guard. Our Lord’s temptation began “after” 40 days of fasting.
We have just entered the season of Lent. Lent is a special occasion which calls us to deep decision-making. It challenges us to test our fidelity to God and to rise above our human weaknesses.
Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, during this season of Lent, speak Your words of covenant love to us. By Your Spirit, help us to trust more fully in You so that, like Your Son Jesus, we would be heralds of Your Kingdom on earth. Amen.
Jakarta, 20 February 2015
A Christian Pilgrim