Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
We often say that Jesus is “like us in all things but sin,” and the interpretation we give of that is that Jesus does undergo temptation. The human Jesus, who, according to the Hymn that Paul quotes in his Letter to the Philippians (2: 2-11), empties himself of his divine prerogatives, does indeed undergo temptation in today’s Gospel Reading. The reading opens with Jesus, fresh from his baptism, is filled with the Holy Spirit. He has experienced God’s approving call at his baptism and has an inkling of what he must do. The forty days in the desert are filled not only with fasting, but with prayer. Jesus, focused on the Father’s will, prays to find more clarity about God the Father’s call to him. If he is human, and has given up his divinity, he needs to pray, and his faith – like our own faith – will need to grow as a result of that prayer.
The prayer of Jesus might have been centered on sacred scripture, perhaps the psalms. Each time he is tempted, he has a scriptural citation with which to respond to Satan’s increasingly attractive offers to him. When, finally, Satan dares to quote scripture to Jesus, our Lord’s answer is both clear and enigmatic. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” When we are tempted, do we first ask for and then use the strength, the hope, the nourishment that the Lord offers us in prayer, scripture, and the Eucharist to combat the skill of the one who will even quote Scripture the Son of God?
—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor at the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.
Holy God, you formed us from the clay of the earth
and breathed into us the spirit of life,
yet we turned from your face and sinned.
In this season of repentance we call out for your mercy.
Bring us home to you and to the life Jesus won for us
by his passion and death. Amen.