Lent is underway, and this year the Church begins it by reminding us why we need it in the first place. She takes us back to the dawn of history and the sad reality of Satan and his activity. We need Lent, which is a time of conversion, of returning to God, because the devil took us away from him in the first place.
And just as he deceived Adam and Eve into rebelling against God, in the Gospel we see him trying the same trick with Jesus, strikingly also at the beginning: in this case the beginning of Our Lord’s public life. The minute Satan notices that Christ is someone out of the ordinary, he tries to deceive him as well.
The sin of Adam and Eve was a sin of pride and mistrust of God, and so we see Christ defeating Satan in the desert precisely by that same trust in the Father which Adam and Eve failed to show.
Adam and Eve took food against God’s word, eating the one tree he had forbidden them to touch. In the first temptation, Jesus, hungry as he was after a 40 days fast , renounces food - "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."- putting God’s word before it: Jesus answered: "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”. Adam and Eve foolishly sought to exalt themselves against God, seeking their own glory: "you will be like God...".
They also put his mercy to the test by disobeying the one prohibition he had laid down. But Jesus refuses to jump from the Temple pinnacle when Satan, distorting Scriptures, invites him to do so on the basis of the biblical verses: "He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’" Being caught by angels in such a public place was a stunt which would have won Jesus human fame. But he wasn’t seeking earthly glory and jumping would have tested God by expecting him to send angels to catch him. So Our Lord rejects the temptation using another scriptural verse: "You shall not tempt the Lord your God"
In the final temptationSatan offers Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory … if you will fall down and worship me". Adam and Eve had sought forbidden power and knowledge and in practise worshipped themselves, and even in a sense Satan by paying more heed to him than to God. And so Jesus sends the devil away with another scriptural text: "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve".
Thus the Church sets out the challenge for Lent: to put God before the satisfaction of our own bodily desires; to renounce all self-glory and earthly fame; and to worship God more radically, recognising that everything we have comes from him and must lead us back to him.
Homily on the readings of the First Sunday of Lent (A)
The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaA short one-minute reflection for these Sunday readings.