Sunday, March 1, 2020

Gospel Reflection 03.01.20: The Temptation of Jesus [Matthew 4:1-11]

' Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him. The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry. '
Matthew 4:1-11

Our first parents showed us that even when we have everything we need, we have our own selfish desires.  There is a "self-idolatry" as C.S. Lewis puts it[1].  We allow ourselves to be ruled not by God but by our own biochemical make-up, allowing our desires to command us rather than His will.  As it says in the first half of 1 Corinthians 10:13 No trial has come to you but what is human. We give into those human cravings selfish desires, regardless of what consequences may arise later.

The problem is we leave ourselves vulnerable.  It is after Jesus fasts for 40 days that Satan tempts him, telling him to turn rocks into bread.  I’m sure all of us, after fasting for any length of time, would feel the pull to give in.  It’s like diabetics who crave sugar when they hear their diagnosis.  Some of us for Lent have given up some form of food (i.e. fast food, chocolate).  I remember being in a meeting and my boss had been on a carb-free cleanse.  For the meeting they ordered pastries for breakfast and she stood there in her introduction “I’m on a carb-free diet and the muffins are hitting me right now.”  It goes with the phrase you covet what you can't have.

So how do we arm ourselves so as to not leave ourselves open?  Temptation is inevitable.  But as Jesus told his disciples "Pray that you may not undergo the test."  Jesus, Himself, gave us instructions and the words in prayer Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil[2]. But as the verse in Corinthians continues God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.  God knows what human nature has become since the Fall[2].

Jesus also led us by example.  In order to gain strength, He went into a quiet place.  Before He started His ministry, he went into the desert to fast and pray.  Before He was to die for our sins, He went into the garden to pray.  This is not to say we must keep ourselves isolated, but prayer and meditation have been known coping mechanisms in mental health[4].  In periods of anxiety and depression, we tend to go for a quick fix, leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms and lifestyle choices.  However, when we pray, we actually physically change our brain structure.  Aside from helping us make better choices, allowing our spirituality to take over physically benefits our bodes not just by the choices we make to turn away from the temptations, but actually allows us to rewire ourselves for the better.

1. Lewis, C.S. (1940). The Problem of Pain. Harper One.

2. Matthew 6:9-13

3. Augustine (1958). City of God (V.J. Bourke, Ed.). Image. (Original Work Published 426 A.D.)

4. Anderson, J.W. (2016). Private prayer associations with depression, anxiety and other health conditions: an analytical review of clinical studies. Postgraduate Medicine. Retrieved from