First Sunday of Lent C: March 6, 2022
Luke 4: 1-13
Fr. John Tran
Why did he do it?Why did Jesus go out into the desert and endureto the temptations of the devil?Wasn’t his whole life a kind of suffering?It would seem that the trials, suffering and death he experienced during Holy Week would have been enough.
Of course it would have been enough, but that is not the point.All the pain and distress Jesus willingly took upon himself shows two things:First, just how bad our human situation was;and second, just how great was his love for us.The test of love is always what the lover does or is prepared to do for the sake of the beloved.Words are not enough.Remember Jesus said to us:“If any one love me, he or she will keep my word. [and] Not everyone who cries Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father.”The Tempter gambles that our human weakness will lead us to abandon our way to the Father.
In Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, we see the nature of the Tempter quite vividly. This isn’t a scene from the Bible. It is a fictional account, but it is quite powerful. Jesus is shown at Gethsemane, similar to our desert scene today at Jesus' first temptation.Jesus is in agony over his betrayal, arrest, and coming crucifixion. A shadowy figure appears and says to him, “No one was meant to save so many. No one can. It is too much. You cannot.” The presence whispers these words over and over, trying to split Jesus from his relationship with God. Finally, Jesus gets up, steps on the head of a snake the tempter has dropped near him, and goes off.The Tempter is unable to turn Jesus from his destiny and calling.As we know, there would be other temptations later after the desert. But for now the Tempter had been defeated. But even Jesus was tempted; tempted, but without sinning.
So, Jesus is showing us in this gospel that he is one with us, and will endure all that we do; simply dying for us is not the extent of his love, nor is it the whole message.The whole message is that Jesus has fully united himself with us in every way, except sin.He is with us in life and death, in temptation and trial.That is the whole message and it includes the devil’s temptations.
What does that call forth from us?It is not enough to proclaim fine words that we love;it is not just a question of experiencing the warm emotional glow which sometimes passes for love;it is not in what we feel or say, but what we do.If we are looking for perfect love of God, we will find it only in those who are ready to do whatever God may ask of them - no matter how hard or painful that is.That is what we see in the gospel today.
What do we think of Jesus’ love for us when we are measured by the same test?It was to help us that Jesus went deliberately into the loneliness of the desert to endure hunger of the body and affliction of the soul.This is what we learn:that neither hunger, nor weariness of long watching, not indignity, nor the assaults of the devil, not the agony of temptation can separate him from his love of any of us.It is thatgreat, intense love, which Jesus asks of us in response.
To paraphrase St. John Chrysostom:‘Fast? Give me proof of it by your works...in care for those in desperate need, in letting your mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.’It is how we live that shows our love for Jesus, whether convenient or inconvenient.If we live this way, we too, cannot be separated from the Father.