I Sunday of Lent
The First Temptation Starting from the normal fact of hunger after forty days of fasting, the first temptation is to use power for personal gain. It is the temptation of the imperative needs, which the people of Israel suffered repeatedly during the forties for the desert. In the end, when Moses reminds the people of all the hardships suffered, he explains why the Lord took that attitude: «(God) afflicted you, making you starve, and then fed you with manna, to teach you that not only does he live on bread man, but of everything that comes from the mouth of God ”(Dt 8,3).
In the experience of the people there have been situations contrary to necessity (hunger) and overcoming the need (manna). From that I should have learned two things. The first, to rely on providence. The second, that living is something much broader and deeper than simply satisfying primary needs. In this richest concept of life, the word of God as a life-giving food plays a role. Actually, the people did not learn the lesson. His concept of life remained narrow and limited. While the primary needs were not satisfied, the word of God was meaningless.
In the case of Jesus, the tempter stops subtleties and goes to the concrete: "If you are the Son of God, say that the stones become bread." Jesus does not need to complain about going hungry, or murmur like the people, or go to Moses. He is the Son of God. You can solve the problem easily, by yourself. But Jesus has learned from the beginning that lesson that the people did not assimilate for years: «It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but also on everything God says through his mouth».
The teaching of Jesus in this first temptation is so rich that it is impossible to reduce it to a single idea. There is the obvious aspect of not using their power for their own benefit. There is the idea of trust in God. But perhaps the most important idea, expressed almost subliminally, is the broad and deep vision of life as something that goes far beyond primary need and feeds on the word of God.
The second temptation (throwing yourself from the temple) also lends itself to very different interpretations. We could consider it the temptation of sensationalism, to resort to extravagant procedures to succeed in apostolic activity. The crowd gathered in the temple contemplates the miracle and accepts Jesus as the Son of God. But this interpretation forgets an important detail. The tempter never refers to that hypothetical crowd. What he proposes occurs alone between Jesus and the angels of God. That is why it seems more accurate to say that temptation is to ask God for evidence to support the entrusted mission. We are not used to this, but it is typical of the Old Testament, as the examples of Moses (Ex 4,1-7), Gideon (Judges 6,36-40), Saul (1 Sam 10,2-5) remember and Ahaz (Is 7,10-14). In response to spontaneous fear and uncertainty in the face of a difficult task, God gives the elect a miraculous sign that supports his mission. It does not matter whether it is a magic cane (Moses), two portents with the night dew (Gideon), a series of different signs (Saul), or a great miracle high in the sky or deep in the earth (Acaz). The important thing is the right to ask for a signal that reassures and encourages the task to be accomplished.
Jesus, about to begin his mission, is entitled to a similar sign. Based on the promise of Psalm 91,11-12 ("he has given orders to his angels to keep you in your ways; they will take you on wings so that your foot does not stumble on the stone"), the tempter proposes a spectacular test and concrete: throw yourself from the eaves of the temple. This will make it clear whether or not he is the Son of God. However, Jesus does not accept this position, and rejects it by citing again a text from Deuteronomy: "You will not tempt the Lord your God" (Deut 6,16). The phrase of the Dt is more explicit: "You will not tempt the Lord, your God, by testing him, as you tempted him in Masá." It contains a reference to the episode of Numbers 17,1-7. Apparently, the problem discussed there is that of thirst; but in the end it is clear that the real temptation is to doubt God's presence and protection: "Is the Lord with us or not?" (v.7). Deep down, any request for signs and wonders conceals a doubt in divine protection. Jesus is not like that. His posture far exceeds even that of Moses.
The third temptation, to an open grave by the tempter, consists in the search for power and glory, even if it involves an act of idolatry. It is not the temptation caused by urgent need or fear, but by the desire to succeed. Jesus rejects the condition that Satan imposes on him citing Dt 6.13.
For Mt, Jesus in the desert is the opposite of Israel in the desert. In the desert era, the people easily succumbed to the inevitable tests of the march: hunger, thirst, enemy attacks. He doubted God's help, complained about difficulties. Jesus, new Israel, subjected to stronger temptations, overcomes them. And it surpasses them, not going back to new theories or personal experiences, but to the basic affirmations of the faith of Israel, as proposed by Moses in Deuteronomy. Contemporary Jews of Matthew and his community have no right to accuse their founder of not following the most authentic spirit. Jesus is the true son of God, the only one who remains faithful to Him at all times.
Today we must remember that temptation is a real fact in Jesus' life, to which he was subjected as a true man. Mt has picked up this theme to make it clear from the beginning how Jesus understands his divine sonship: not as a privilege, but as a service. Basically, the three temptations are reduced to one: to place oneself before God, put one's own needs, fears and tastes above unconditional service to the Lord, distrusting his help or wanting to supplant him.
Temptations also have value for each of us and for the entire Christian community. They serve to analyze our attitude towards needs, fears and desires and our degree of interest in God.
+Faustino Armendáriz Jiménez
OMCC Ecclesiastical Advisor