1st Sunday of Lent (C) 02-25-07 Scripture Readings First Deuteronomy 26:4-10 Second Romans 10:8-13 Gospel Luke 4:1-13

Prepared by: Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P. 1. Subject Matter • Why was Jesus Christ tempted? What do his temptations signify? What purpose do they serve? • At the core of every temptation is the evil of doubt; Lent is a time to recover the virtue of certainty so evident in the disciples after the resurrection in the Acts of the Apostles. • What is the significance of our experience of temptations? What is the appropriate way to deal with temptations? 2. Exegetical Notes • Notice what immediately precedes today’s Gospel: Luke’s rendition of the genealogy that is traced from Jesus to Adam. Is Christ the New Adam acting to overcome Adam’s original temptation? • The verb peirzein meaning “to put to the test” with a sinister intention: “The nuance is not that of testing Jesus’ faith as much as an attempt to frustrate the divine plan of salvation” (J. Fitzmyer). • The devil promises to give Jesus exousia, “authority.” The significance of authority in Luke: • 4:32 – Jesus’ teaching impresses hearers because he speaks with authority • 4:36 – Jesus gives orders to unclean spirits with authority • 5:24 – Jesus has authority to forgive sins • 9:1 – Jesus gives authority to the Twelve • 10:19 – Jesus gives authority to the seventy-two

Thus, the authority that Jesus enjoys because of his fidelity to his Father cannot compare to what the Evil One promises. 3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church • CCC 215: “The beginning of sin and of man’s fall was due to a lie of the tempter who induced doubt of God’s word, kindness and faithfulness.” • CCC 538: “The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert….At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God.” • CCC 539: “The salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel’s vocation perfectly…totally obedient to the divine will…. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.” • CCC 540: “Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us.” • CCC 2119: “Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed…. The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.” • CCC 2732: “The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences.”

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities • St. Basil: “The devil delights in the wilderness; he is not wont to go into the cities because the harmony of the citizens troubles him.” • St. Ambrose: “Jesus was led into the wilderness to deliver that Adam from exile who was cast out of Paradise into the wilderness.” • St. John Chrysostom: “All that Jesus did and suffered was for our instruction. He consented to be led into the desert and to do battle with the devil so that when the baptized were assailed by greater temptations after baptism than before, they would not be troubled as though this were something unexpected, but would remain steadfast, bearing them all nobly.” • St. John Chrysostom: “The reasons God does not prevent the onslaught of temptations are these: (1) so that you may learn that you have now become much stronger; (2) so that you may remain modest, for you will not be puffed up by the greatness of your gifts if temptations can

humble you; (3) because the wicked demon may doubt at first whether you have really renounced him and the test of temptation will convince him of your total desertion; (4) to confirm you, who are now stronger and steadier than iron; (5) to give you clear evidence of the treasure committed to you. The devil would not have attacked you if he had not seen that you have been raised to a position of great honor.” • St. Cyril of Alexandria: “Christ, knowing Satan’s plan, neither made the change [of the stones] nor said that he was either unable or unwilling to make it. Rather, the Lord shakes him off as annoying and meddlesome.” • St. Hilary: “The temptations of the devil assail those principally who are sanctified, for he desires above all to overcome the holy.” • St. Thomas Aquinas: “Christ willed to be tempted: (1) that he might strengthen us against temptations; (2) so that we might be warned that none, however holy, may think himself safe or free from temptation; (3) to give us an example so that he might teach us how to overcome the temptations of the devil; (4) in order to fill us with confidence in his mercy.” • “The word is near you” Origen: “By this Paul indicates that Christ is in the heart of all people by virtue of his being the Word of reason [logos] embedded in all things by sharing in which all men are rational.” • “If you confess…that Jesus is Lord” St. Augustine: “The creed builds up in you what you ought to believe and confess in order to be saved.” 5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars • Mother Teresa: “Hidden from all eyes, hidden even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ever-increasing longing for his love. She called her inner experience, ‘the darkness.’ The ‘painful night’ of her soul, which began around the time she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life, led Mother Teresa to an ever more profound union with God. Through the darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus, in his painful and burning longing for love, and she shared in the interior desolation of the poor.” (from the Vatican biography) • St. Therese of Lisieux: “I believe the demon has asked God permission to tempt me with an extreme suffering, to make me fail in patience and faith…. If I had not had faith, I would have committed suicide without an instant’s hesitation.” (from Her Last Conversations) • St. John of the Cross - who was held prisoner in a stifling cell by his own community for nine months: “The reason trials are necessary in order to reach an advanced state is that highest union cannot be wrought in a soul that is not fortified by trials and temptations and purified by tribulations, darknesses, and distress, just as a superior quality liqueur is poured only into a sturdy flask which is prepared and purified. God allows souls to be tempted in order to elevate them as high as possible, that is, to union with the divine wisdom…The combat of trials, distress,

and temptations deadens the evil and imperfect habits of the soul and purifies and strengthens it. A man should hold in esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends him, realizing that there are few who merit to be brought to perfection through suffering and to undergo trials for the sake of so high a state…. For God repays the interior and exterior trials very well with divine goods for the soul and body, so that there is not a trial which does not have a corresponding and considerable reward.” • For another compelling — but graphic — example, cf. The Little Flowers of St. Francis, chapter 29 which relates how St. Francis of Assisi counseled Brother Ruffino to deal with temptation. 6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI • “The temptation of Jesus can be understood as acceptance and overcoming of the original temptation of Adam…Being tempted is an essential part of his being a man, part of his descent into the depths of our need…. The temptation story summarizes the entire struggle of Jesus: it is about the nature of his mission, but at the same time it is also, in general, about the right ordering of human life, about the way to be human, about the way of history.” • “The temptation of Jesus is about what is really important in the life of man. This ultimate thing, this decisive thing, is the primacy of God. The germ of all temptation is setting God aside, so that he seems to be a secondary concern when compared with all the urgent priorities of our lives. To consider ourselves, the needs and desires of the moment to be more important than he is— that is the temptation that always besets us. For in doing so we deny God his divinity, and we make ourselves, or rather, the powers that threaten us, into our god.” • “Temptation does not begin with the denial of God. The first thing is not the denial of God but rather doubt about his covenant, about the community of faith, prayer , the commandments–all of which are the context for living God’s covenant.” 7. Other Considerations Christ’s temptations in the desert demonstrate the instrumental role temptation plays in fortifying human resolve to carry out the divine will. Perfected by what he suffered (cf. Heb 2:10), Christ emerged from the desert with a more highly equipped freedom, for “the more one does what is good, the freer one becomes” (CCC 1733). This is the freedom with which he sets out on the path to his cross; this is the freedom that we beg will become our own as we reliquinsh our “wandering” and enter upon our own Lenten path to the Passion. Without the agency of temptation, we fall prey to our own fallenness. “Two of the three were more subtle temptations…. The human mind is very deceitful; when a thing is forbidden, a man does not lie directly to do it, but he goes to work if he can to get at the forbidden end in some way” (John Henry Newman). “We dare not underestimate or doubt the depth of temptation Jesus went through. He who took our sins upon himself also wanted to learn to know our temptations with all their cleverly deceptive power to seduce…. The three verses with which Jesus counters the devil are not neatly memorized aphorisms but painfully acquired responses. In a higher sense one can call them an existential confession of faith” (von Balthasar). The experience of temptation purifies us because it moves us to depend totally on God as we discover that there is

nothing in ourselves on which we can depend. “Jesus was tempted as Son” (J. Fitzmyer). God permits temptation in order to generate in us an unshakeable trust whereby we eagerly receive his love in the midst of whatever may tempt or torment us so that we no longer look for security and serenity in our own strength. That is how the power of God “overcomes” temptation in our life. Perhaps it was here, in the anguish of the torturing desert, that Jesus was moved to conceive and compose the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. Recommended Resources Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Creation and Fall/Temptation New York: Touchstone, 1997 Cameron, Peter John, To Praise, To Bless, To Preach: Spiritual Reflections on the Sunday Gospels—Cycle C Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000 Toal, M.F. Editor, The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers Swedesboro: Preservation Press, 1996 Vann, Gerald and P.K. Meagher, The Temptations of Christ New York: Sheed & Ward, 1957 von Balthasar, Hans Urs, Light of the Word San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993

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