Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
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.
Purposely, Satan’s temptations begin with the phrase “If you are the Son of God…” At the river Jordan Jesus heard just that, for He is the Father’s beloved son. The grace of our own baptism is to grow in our belief that we also are God’s beloved. But temptations twist what it means to be God’s beloved. It’s not an exception from hard work. (“Command these stones become bread…”) Nor is it an assurance of protection from all harm. (“Lest you dash your foot against a stone…”) It is not a ticket to status and privilege. (“All these I shall give to you…”) Baptism is communion with our crucified-risen Lord, the ultimate reassurance of God’s eternal love for us. Still, in the face of deep suffering, even the strongest can doubt that love. Where are we most vulnerable to spiritual attack? It is there that we need to pray for divine protection.
—J. Michael Sparough, S.J. is a Retreat Master and Spiritual Director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House outside Chicago. He blogs weekly at heartoheart.org. Click to watch a video of this reflection.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
—Jesus of Nazareth