GEN 2: 7-9, 3: 1-7 ROM 5: 12-19 MT 4: 1-11
A mother camel and her baby are talking one day and the baby camel asks, “Mom why have we got these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replies, “To enable us walk across the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why have we got these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert” replies the mother camel. “And Mom, why have we got these big humps on our backs?” The mother, now a little impatient with the boy replies, “They are there to help us store fat for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “OK, I get it!” says the baby camel, “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo?” Modern life sometimes makes one feel like a camel in a zoo. And like camels in a zoo we need sometimes to go into the desert in order to discover who we truly are. Lent invites us to enter into this kind of desert experience.
In the first reading from the book of Genesis we have the story of the tempting of Adam and Eve and in the Gospel we have the story of the tempting of Jesus. These two are sophisticated stories and are not meant to be taken literally. They are essentially about making choices. The first reading tells us that Adam and Eve were given the possibility of making a choice. The basic fundamental choice was to live for God, dependent and obedient to His will, or to say ‘no’ to God, and live in the illusion that they did not need God. They were tempted by the serpent, the symbol of Satan. They were tempted through deceit. They were tempted to believe that they could be gods themselves. They disobeyed; they sinned and had to face the consequences of their choice.
In the Gospel we are reminded that just as the first Adam was tempted, so the new Adam, Jesus was also tempted. Just as Adam and Eve had to make a choice so Jesus too had to make choices and reaffirm his obedience to doing the Will of his Father. Unlike Adam and Eve he made an irrevocable decision to do the Father’s will no matter what the consequences.
Jesus temptation came in various forms and was related to the happenings of his life. After fasting for several days Jesus was hungry and was tempted to use his power to satisfy his bodily needs. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” The devil invites Jesus to procure food for himself the easy way, making use of his divine powers, rather than trusting in his Father who would procure it for him at the right moment.
The first one, to turn stones into bread, has to do with how we use our God-given gifts, talents and abilities. The temptation is for us to use our gifts to make a living for ourselves. Jesus would later on in his ministry multiply bread to feed others. But he would not do it to feed himself. Do we see our talents and abilities, our jobs and professions, as a means to serve others or simply as a means to make a living for ourselves?
In the second test Jesus is tempted to prove that he is God’s son by jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple and letting the angels catch him as was promised in the Scripture.
In the third temptation the devil promises Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth if only Jesus would worship him. Jesus wants the whole world to acknowledge him, of course, but would he achieve that by worshipping a false god? Can we pursue our goals by any means whatsoever? Does the end justify the means? Jesus says no. He remains steadfast and faithful to God, rejecting the short-cuts offered by the devil. In the end he attains an end more glorious than that offered by the devil: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
Today, let us realize that as God’s children we too are under constant testing. If you do not know it, then try to answer these questions: Will you keep believing in God whether or not you get that one thing that you have always been praying for? Would you still believe that God loves you if you or your loved one contracted a shameful disease that has no cure, and God does not give you healing in spite of all your prayers? Do you sometimes put God to the test and say: “If you do this for me, then I will serve you, but if not, I will have nothing more to do with you.” Jesus shows us today that to serve God is to surrender ourselves to Him unconditionally and in all situations.