FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT – YEAR B
First reading: Genesis 9:8-15
Second reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
Gospel: Mk 1:12-15
Today’s Gospel tell us about Jesus’ forty days in the desert and the beginning of his ministry in Galilee.
St Mark’s description of Jesus’ temptations in the desert is very brief. The other Synoptics, Matthew and Luke, give more details about how the devil put Jesus to the test with three kinds of temptation.
This text is the continuation of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan (Mk 1:9-11), in which the Holy Spirit descends on him and the voice of the Father is heard: “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you” (Mk 1:11).
It is very interesting to notice how that same phrase “You are my Son” (uttered by the Father) is now used by Satan, for his devious intent:
“If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3) … do this, do that, show you power! And what if… nothing happens? Where is your God? Are you sure you are his Beloved Son, or is He cheating you?
This reminds us the book of Genesis, when Satan makes Adam and Eve doubt God’s love. The devil wants to strike Jesus in the greatest certainty of his life: God is my Father and He loves me.
And so, in the first temptation the devil takes advantage of the basic needs: “If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.” (Mt 4:3)
It sounds like: you are hungry, you need your food, it is your right to have it. Use your power! There is nothing wrong in doing it. Prove to yourself that you are the Son of God!
But Jesus answers: “Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4).
Then, the second temptation is about success, to choose an easy way to be a Messiah: Satan brings Jesus on the top of the temple and says: “«If you are Son of God», he said, «throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone. »” (Mt 4:6).
…Everybody would see and acknowledge that you are the Son of God! Is this not the reason why you were sent? To draw all people to the faith? Show your glory, perform this miracle, and everybody will believe in you. Throw yourself from here, if you believe in what the Scripture says: the angels will surely carry you!…
Interesting how the devil knows the Holy Scripture and manipulates it in order to say what he wants. But Jesus answers: “Scripture also says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Mt 4:7)
This temptation will appear again, in Jesus’ hardest hour. While He is hanging on the cross, in tremendous pain, the onlookers will say:
“He saved others; he cannot save himself. If he is the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He has put his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For he did say, «I am God’s son. »” (Mt 27: 42-43).
He undoubtedly could have come down from the cross. He could have saved himself. Instead, He chose to embrace suffering till his very last, to offer himself for our salvation. His glory will be revealed later, not now: by his resurrection.
And finally, the third temptation is about power:
“Taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to him, «I will give you all these»” (Mt 4:8-9).
He could have ruled on the entire world, and He would certainly have been a just and wise king. He would have improved the human condition. But there is a “if”: “if you fall at my feet and do me homage.” (v.9)
All the power of the world, but accepting this compromise with evil: Jesus then would have served Satan, and not the Father.
Our Lord Jesus Christ chose another way to show his divinity to us: the way of humility, poverty and obedience to the Father; not accepting compromises with the devil, and letting us free to make our own choice of him as Lord and King of our life.
He is not that kind of king that imposes his power or accepts compromises in order to rule, but He is a king who fights for us in the battlefield, till the point of accepting death for our salvation.
Let us then follow our Lord throughout this Lent, let us accompany him on his journey to his Holy Passion, so that we could love and serve him more.