Lent 1: The Temptation of Christ

This episode in today’s Gospel follows straight on after our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan with the descent of the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Father is heard saying that this was his Son, the Messiah. Later, Jesus confirmed this status in his hometown of Nazareth, when he declares that Isaiah’s markers to identify a Messiah are now fulfilled. However, the Baptism and the voice of God draws everyone’s attention, including those of evil. In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel, he is to be tested with the simple proposition, “If you are the Son of God…”. The temptations are even plausible, simply asking proof of identity. You see, temptations are subtle, as in the story of Adam and Eve, they worth considering but always sowing a doubt, “‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.’ So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” Although the Genesis story is in the realm of myth, that it is, telling the truth of the workings of our mind and heart. It is profile of how we accept a doubt and then negotiate ourselves into making the wrong choice in the mistake that it looks OK. When our Lord accepted the credentials for a Messiah that Isaiah lists, (this
was in the synagogue in Capernaum) he also accepts the prophet’s image of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. The temptations are to see if he can be taken away from this vocation and to be quick and smart in convincing everyone he is the effective Messiah they are looking for. But the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is the one who embodies within himself the sins, the death and suffering of all humanity. From this path Jesus will not be distracted. He will not leap from the Temple but he will leap into our death to change it. He will not turn stones into bread but he will give his own Body to be the Bread of Life and his Blood as the Chalice of Eternal Life. He will resist temptation and sin to be a merciful and understanding High Priest who knows our weakness and failings and to be the source of healing and wholeness within the midst of our humanity. He will resist Evil One and give his disciples authority over that evil – for he shares that possibility to his disciples – to his people – to his Church. Christ is tempted for us, to give us the grace and insight of how evil can be resisted.