FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR A.
26th February 2023
Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.
The target of every temptation is human desire. This is so because human desire brings out the best and the worst in anybody. There are things that by their nature cannot be shared. One of such things that cannot be shared is our individual personalities. Human conflict is when our desires clash on things that cannot be shared. Aware of this, the devil lures our desires to clash to keep us in conflict with each other. We give in to temptation when we believe the illusion that usurping another’s personality will improve our being. Unfortunately it can only lead to self-destruction.
The temptation stories of the first reading and the gospel involve clashes of desires. In the first reading, the serpent told the woman that the reason God forbade her from eating the fruit of the tree was that she will be like him. The serpent said to the woman: ‘…God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman bought into the illusion that eating the fruit of the tree will make her God’s equal. But to her disappointment, herself and the man both realised their nakedness before God. This is why sin is often referred to as a rebellion against God.
On three occasions in the gospel, the devil wanted Jesus to abuse the authority and power he shares with his heavenly Father. First, he tells Jesus to command stones to become bread knowing that it will be far too much for both of them to eat in the desert. Secondly, he told Jesus to jump from the parapet of the temple in order to display his power unnecessarily. Lastly, he wanted Jesus to disgrace the Trinity by bowing before him. The one goal of the devil in this temptation is to motivate conflict through a clash in the personality of the Trinity. Jesus proved in this temptation that the desire of the Trinity is united profoundly.
The lesson for us is found in the manner in which Jesus handled his own temptation. In each of the moments of his temptation he cited the words of scripture to counter the lure of the devil. For instance when he was told to jump from the parapet of the temple, he said: ‘…You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’ In our case, prayers can go a long way in shielding our desires from clashing. This brings to mind what the Patristic Tertullian said about prayer. According to him, prayer does not change the mind of God, rather it conforms our minds to the will of God. The will of God is that desires will not clash in anyway. Praying is a way of shielding our desires from clashing. Prayer is an antidote to every form of temptation.
Fr Anthony Ekpunobi, CM