1st Sunday of Lent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Temptations of Jesus and our Temptations .”
The first reading tells us of the profession of faith by Israel. The account of the interventions of God in favour of his people is the proof that he loves everyone and leads them on the ‘Way’ of life. We must never doubt his love, even during difficult and dark periods of our lives.
The second reading tells us that this trust in God must be professed with our life and proclaimed by word of mouth.
The Gospel recounts the three temptations Jesus faced at the beginning of his public ministry. Each of the temptations encouraged Jesus to forget about his humanity. However, he did not succumb to them. He did not spurn his earthly origins. Worldly kingdoms without God were nothing. Spectacular deeds without God were equally foolish.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
During Lent, the first readings on Sundays are not chosen to be in unison with the Gospel readings. Nor are they a selection of detached readings on one theme, as they are in Advent. The opening readings for the five Sundays of Lent constitute a freestanding series which, each year, gives an overview of salvation history. It tells us the way in which God dealt with his people, of how God revealed himself to his people by overseeing and participating in their history.
Today’s first reading from Deuteronomy is a law code, a summary of the religious directives first expressed in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Its’ purpose was to teach the people how to live in the land the Lord had given them. The laws are set forth into the mouth of Moses in the form of discourses.
In the religious, social and political crises of Israel during the time of the kings, Deuteronomy called Israel to reformation and renewal. Harvest thanksgiving offered a suitable opportunity. In a solemn confession, recited as they offered the first fruits of the crops, the people recalled their wanderings with the patriarchs and the oppression in Egypt, from which God delivered them through Moses. These ceremonies and words were used by the Jews to proclaim their acceptance and observance of God’s Law and promises. It was an acknowledgement that their lives depended totally on his generosity: all they had was granted by him.
God had heard their cry and had given them their present fertile land. What would become of these first fruits? Our reading, unfortunately, stops at v.10, but the following verses inform us that these fruits offered to the Temple were not burnt on the altar, but were eaten by the representatives of God. Which ones, the priests? No the poor. They were given to the poor: the Levites, foreigners, orphans and widows (vv. 11-12). The feast was considered successful and pleasing to God only when the needs of the poor had been satisfied.
Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15.
The Psalm, an expression of confidence in God, describes a group of pilgrims at prayer day and night in the Temple. The priests set them on their way. Whatever the difficulties that lie before them they pray that God will bring them safely through.
Paul makes it clear that all of us, no matter how lowly our origins, we have been given a great future in Christ. He says to all Christians that, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God will raise him from the dead, you will be saved”.
This reading too, like the first one, demands a ‘profession of faith’ and ‘reformation’. The farmer presenting the first fruits of his field was required to proclaim the great works that the Lord had done for his people. This was done standing before the temple priest in front of the altar.
The Christian too, Paul tells us, is called to proclaim to all the greatest signs of God’s favour, his greatest ever intervention: the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The faith in this God whom came to help humankind should be proclaimed in two ways: with the heart and with the tongue.
“With the heart” means with the life. Faith in Christ must result in a completely new life. The apostle also insists that faith has to be proclaimed “by word of mouth”. Why? Because the “Creed” said: “Together with our brothers and sisters give us the chance of joining our voice to theirs.” Whoever becomes aware of belonging to a people of believers and expresses their faith through signs, gestures and words, will feel a greater stimulus to follow Christ.
But this is not all; they should feel the need to wipe away all “distinction and barriers” put up by race, tribe, culture, wealth, social and economic conditions and the individual’s character. Are these still present within our Christian communities? Do we really feel like brothers and sisters in Christ, all having the same dignity?
We are at the beginning of the public life of Jesus. At his baptism he received the Holy Spirit and heard the Father declare him to be his Beloved Son. Soon after the Spirit drove him into the desert, the temptation story summarises different moments in the life of Jesus.
Jesus is tempted to question the specific mission he had received as the Beloved Son from his Father. In all these instances, he chose to remain faithful to his Father, rather than to seek personal glory through spectacular miracles. The Spirit Jesus receives at his baptism will lead Jesus throughout his life. The story of the temptation that we read today shows us how he collaborates with this Spirit to really be an instrument of God.
Today’s powerful narrative presents multiple challenges to us. Could Jesus really be put to the test by the devil? Is the world really under the devil’s control? What was the fundamental test that Jesus faced? What do these have to do with Lent? Many Jewish writings close to the New Testament era, while affirming the absolute sovereignty of God, state that the “kingdoms of the world”, with their proliferation of idolatry and brutal military rule, were Satan’s domain.
Luke anticipates the conflict of the kingdoms that will unfold in his Gospel when Jesus enacts “release of captives” and cast out demons, and the early Church will practice “healing all those oppressed by the devil”. With Jesus’ conquest of the devil, the ultimate victory of goodness over evil is assured, but the struggle will be renewed throughout history by Jesus’ followers. In a world in which evil power is manifested today by humans, in almost superhuman form such as brutal dictator structures, massive economic exploitation and the lust for violence. Luke’s conflict of the kingdoms seems quite contemporary.
The devil first urges Jesus, hungry after forty days without food, to turn a stone into a loaf of bread. But Jesus will never use his powers for his own needs. Jesus reminds the tempter and all of us that only the Word of God is the true food of God’s children. Believers appeal to this Word in times of temptation. They know that they will not be tempted beyond their strength.
In the second temptation, Jesus is shown all the kingdoms of the world and their power and glory, which the devil will give to him “if you worship me”. Jesus responds with the fundamental affirmation of Israel’s faith, the first words of the Shema, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve”.
Finally, on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, the devil challenges Jesus to a miraculous demonstration of his power, and Jesus again invokes Scripture, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Today many people challenge God for an extraordinary sign of his presence.
There is a strong parallel between the first and the third test. Both involve use of Jesus’ power to save himself from suffering and death. That is the fundamental objective of these tests. Luke ends by noting that Satan leaves Jesus “for a time”. The final test also comes in Jerusalem, on the Cross, when again he is tempted three times to use his power to save himself. Jesus was tempted by Satan to follow a different kind of messiah-ship than what the Father offered, one that would substitute demonstrations of power for rejection and suffering.
Such a “test” is the lot of followers of Jesus today. Our culture offers seemingly infinite possibilities for reforming one’s self, with a priority put on personal fulfilment and material success. Christians are challenged instead to live not by bread alone, but to worship and serve God, as well as to discern and always accept God’s will in our lives that often seems pedestrian and unimportant.
With Jesus, the trial of our lives begins with the embrace of the Spirit in baptism, in following Jesus’ example in going through suffering and death to new life, to be filled again with the Holy Spirit.
During Lent, we remember how Jesus went into the desert to pray and fast. In this season of prayer, penance and worship, we have a chance to get below the surface of our lives. At this special time of the year, we have a chance to go within and, like Jesus, to find our best selves that God wants us to be.
Filled with the Spirit and the Word, God enlightens us to make the right choices in the events of our daily lives.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 1st Sunday of Lent Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … God’s Laws teach and guide us how to live the life he has given us to achieve joy, peace, love and happiness. God has created the world we live in. God knows what is best and that it is his desire and will for us. If only we would carry out his will and not the way of the world or our will.
Mon. … As in the time of the kings of Israel, God still calls us to reformation and renewal. In their solemn confessions, the people of Israel offered the first fruits of their labours to proclaim their acceptance and observance of God’s Law and as an acknowledgement of their total dependence on him. In the modern world where riches and new discoveries in science and medicine are seen as a result of mankind’s wisdom and power, do we still feel totally dependent on God?
Tues. … God still hears the cry of the ‘poor and suffering’ and he calls on all Christians as well as those who rely on his guidance and unfailing love, to offer up our ‘first fruits’ not to him, but to the poor, the destitute foreigners, the orphans and the widows. Our actions are always pleasing to God when those actions help the needs of the poor.
Wed. … Paul makes it clear to us that, no matter how low our origins may be, we have been given a new life in Jesus. If we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. ‘Everyone who calls in the name of the Lord shall be saved’. Such is our good fortune. Let us pray that out of our spiritual poverty we will rise to heavenly heights and new life with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thur. … Each time we renew our ‘baptismal promises’ the Spirit is with us. We can never be tempted beyond the strength that the Spirit gives us. However, temptation for the Christian is a life-long battle to make the right choices. We need to constantly ask ourselves what the root causes of our problems are and how best we can engage and resist them. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful weapon.
Fri. … As in the final test in Jerusalem, when Jesus was tempted to follow a different kind of messiah-ship, we, too, will be tempted many times to follow a different messiah, a different god. A false god that promises quick and easy solutions; no unnecessary love for your neighbour, no compassion or charity afforded to others, no self-sacrifice or sufferings, but only pleasure, riches, power and self-gratification. Will we, like Jesus, remain faithful to the One, True God, despite the pain and the suffering of the Cross we are asked to carry?
Sat. … Jesus was tempted by the devil. Surveys show that many people today do not believe in the existence of the devil and that’s just what Satan wants so that he can lead us astray without us knowing it. Jesus took the reality and power of the devil very seriously. The devil is a personal, evil power who rebelled against God and tries to lead us astray. Pray today that our Lord will deliver us from the ‘evil one’ and that we will be given the strength and wisdom to always make the right choices.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, today we reflect on the temptations and trials that all Your people must encounter. May we never doubt Your love, even during the difficult and dark periods of our lives. May we always follow the example of Jesus to always do Your will, even if it means the Cross. May we believe that through the Cross, our gratuitous love, self-sacrifice for You and for others, we will be raised to new life in Christ.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.