We begin the season of Lent by joining Jesus in the desert where he is tempted by the devil.
Satan tempts Jesus in three ways, which represent the same three tactics he commonly employs today to get us to break our relationship with God.
First, Satan tries to undermine Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. He does the same thing with us—he tries to undermine our dignity and identity as sons and daughters of God. Second, Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Satan tempts us too to seek power and influence in this world in order to further enslave us in an endless quest for control.
Finally, Satan tempts Jesus to fulfill his mission in a way other than the one ordained by the Father. In the same way, we are often tempted to find an easier or more “successful” way to live our lives, instead of trusting the Father’s plan.
Jesus answers Satan in all three of these temptations with the Word of God because God’s Word has power to resist and overcome evil. That is one reason why it is so important to become steeped and grounded in Scripture: in order to have a ready sword of truth which we can use to defend ourselves against the lies and snares of evil. Let us now join Jesus in the desert in this week’s Gospel reading and learn how we can better resist the temptations of the devil in our own lives today.
Unpack the First Reading
This Lenten season begins with the recounting of the first fruits offering that was commanded of Israel before entry into the Promised Land. We’re reminded that to enter into the promises of Easter, we must offer the best of ourselves in the coming Lent.
The first fruits offering wasn’t simply a kind of bribe given to God in return for fertility as was often the case in other cultures. The offering was divided among the priests, the poor, and aliens; it was an act of almsgiving. For Israel, the first fruits offering was a collective act of humility and charity. In this ritual act that led to the feeding of the poor and the alien, Israel said, in effect, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
We have the same need as Israel to recognize that what we have is a gift. We have been given the Promised Land that is the Church through no merit of our own. In this Lenten season one of the ways that we express our gratitude to God for his gifts to us is by being generous to the poor and the alien.
Unpack the Second Reading
One can convey a lot of meaning with a few words. Certain words can carry a great weight of meaning. Many terms St. Paul uses in this reading are charged with meaning and weight because they allude to events from the Old Testament. To take just one example, Paul begins by contrasting the righteousness that comes from the Law and the righteousness that comes by faith. The term “righteousness” in Hebrew is “zedek.” In ancient times it meant that you were a legitimate heir or descendent. To be “righteous” meant that you had a right to inherit the throne. But “righteousness” can also mean acting justly or doing the right thing. One would be said to be just or righteous if he obeyed the Law of God and lived in accord with the Covenant.
So a proper conception of the term “righteousness” combines the two ideas contained in the one, weighty word. We receive the gift of being righteous (or rightful) heirs by faith in Christ, and we keep our place in the inheritance by righteous acts of faith, working in love under the influence of God’s grace.
Unpack the Gospel
Luke was interested in changing the way the Hellenistic (Greco- Roman) people saw themselves and the world by showing that Jesus is the definitive key to not only the Jewish story but also to the whole human story. So for Luke it’s particularly important to show that Jesus is the new David, a new king of which the world ought to take note. One of the parallels between David and Jesus can be seen in our Gospel reading this week.
In 1 Samuel 16:13 we’re told that the Holy Spirit rushes upon David after he’s anointed by the prophet Samuel, and then later David fights and defeats Goliath. In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the Jordan after he’s baptized, and then he later fights and defeats Satan in the desert.
It’s important for us to remember that in Jesus, we too are connected to the people of Israel. We relive that 4,000 years of their struggle in the 40 days of our Lenten season, just as Jesus relived that struggle in his 40 days in the desert. In him the Jewish story becomes our story. In him we hope for the Easter victory that heralds the salvation story for the whole world.
The Scripture Readings for today focus on the temptations of Jesus, but even more, they speak to us of the power God gives us to overcome evil. Begin your exploration of these passages by watching the short Opening the Word video found on FORMED.org.
Based on the video presentation by Mary Healy, what are the three ways Satan tempted Jesus? And how does Satan use the same three tactics to tempt us today?”
As we saw in the Gospel reading and heard in the presentation, Jesus responded to temptation using the Word of God. How are the Scriptures an important weapon and defense in our battle against temptation?
Priest, Prophet, King Lent Study
You should have received your first video in our Lent study via email or text. The video runs about 20 minutes. Please watch it with a friend or within your small group. Discuss Fr Carl’s reflection questions included with the video (also listed here on page 5).
Daily Lent Reflections
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Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.