A Reflection on Mt 4:1-11
By Fr. Ric Chinchilla, CJM
First Sunday of Lent, we start our 40-day spiritual journey; our Gospel this Sunday will introduce Jesus, who will be leading the way, we need to learn from the master.
After baptism, Jesus, led by the Spirit, went into the desert. It might seem strange that the Spirit will guide him on this desert journey. Remember though, the Hebrews crossed the red sea (baptism), entered the desert (guided by God) as the place between slavery and the promised land, they have to walk through it, they have to learn, and they have to trust. You cannot compromise the freedom received; you have been rescued, live that freedom; the desert will train you.
Jesus will shed light upon this situation when after 40 days of fasting, he then gets hungry. A very willing uncalled helper arrives, the devil.
First lie: USE YOUR POWER TO SATISFY YOURSELF; YOU DESERVE IT!
"If you are the son of God," the devil starts. A phrase formulated as a daring game in which an insecure, hungry, and maybe suffering subject could feel tempted to prove the "devil" that he has what it takes (when we are at the weakest point, we might make an impaired decision). Sadly, the internet nowadays is full of videos of people trying to prove their worth, very often while attempting to diminish and crush others; definitely, not the way of Christ.
But Jesus doesn't respond to this "dare" as the tempter would expect. He will not use his prerogative of being the son of God to satisfy his hunger with bread (Philippians 2:6). Jesus will never perform a miracle for his benefit, but only to help someone else. His real desire is to be attentive to his Father's words. He could become powerful, wealthy, feared with his heavenly power, but he chooses to listen to the words that come from the mouth of God; that's a new logic of the kingdom.
If he turns the bread from stones himself, he doesn't need the Father anymore, but Jesus and the Father are one (Jn 10:30); Not even all the bread of the world will give you peace in your heart, but a single word of God will surely do, and will make you one with him.
Second lie: GO FOR A SPECTACULAR STUNT, IMPRESS THEM!
The devil goes on the offensive with the same "If you are the son of God," Jump from the temple! You can get religious power. Be the star; you have the potential, go solo! He even quote a bible verse to convince him.
But Jesus doesn't need personal glory; his glory is to do the Father's will; after all, he is the beloved Son, God is well pleased in him (Mt. 3:17)
Let's bring this into our realm: Have you ever wished to have the gift of healing (or any other charism) so that you could help God? Do you think you can control your Ego before becoming the star, and leaving God on the second place? How are your reactions to daily life? Do you get frustrated with others about the way they do things, and still, I call myself a Christian? If trying to do God's work, gets you to look down on others, it means you are not worshipping God anymore, but your Ego (in summary, you are jumping from the temple's ledge, and you want to let people know about it).
Third lie: I CAN TAKE YOU HIGHER!
Now the devil goes up, all the way to the top of the mountain, and goes for broke. He asks: worship me, and I'll give you all this. He is bluntly saying: "Drop God your father, let me replace him."
Jesus is clear: "get away Satan." and then he teaches him a lesson: "The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve."
Now: SHOULD YOU GET INTO THE DESERT?
Definitely yes. But be sure to take some inspiration on Jesus.
Let the Spirit guide you, pray for the Holy Spirit, read the scripture, and see how Jesus follows the will of the Father; he becomes the divine link of mercy to the Father.
You go to the spiritual desert to leave things behind, not to gather new burdens. Jesus did not allow the devil to trick him; he kept his complete trust in the Father; he didn't need any gimmicks (Don not start saying, please God give me this sign!!, just trust him).
Fasting for forty days seems severe, but training makes the master, an Olympic athlete trains for a long time, not only one day. Therefore, during this lent, train the way you speak about others, more love, and less judgment; give more help and less criticism; more "can I help you?" instead of "what is taking you so long?" more giving glory to God and controlling my Ego. In the style of Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know I am God." It is more a task of contemplating God, dwelling in his presence, and realizing he is with you.
We Catholics go willingly for a yearly quarantine (40), which we call Lent, because we know the areas in which we need a profound transformation, and this time will allow us to focus on how to walk hand in hand with God.
Ready or not, take the challenge, come into the desert which is the only path to the promise land, come after Jesus and with Jesus; new life is waiting for those who trust in his love.