Get them when they are down.
Every year on this First Sunday of Lent, we hear of Christ being tempted with food, honour and pride by ‘the tempter’ after spending 40 days and nights fasting in the desert. In Year A, the present liturgical year, the Gospel offers Matthew’s version of this event in the life of Jesus and, in the first reading from Genesis, the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Anyone who has ever dieted knows what a temptation food is. Jesus has been fasting for 40 days! I daresay it is almost impossible for us to even comprehend a 40 day fast.
In his homily for this Sunday three years ago, Pope Francis calls to our attention that, unlike Eve, Jesus does not engage in conversation with Satan. He is “aware that there can be no dialogue with Satan, for he is cunning.” Instead, Jesus “takes refuge in the Word of God, and responds with the power of this Word.” That, Pope Francis suggests, is to be our defence against temptation: don’t argue with Satan, turn to the Word of God.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray: ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ THIS day. Not this year; this month; this week. Simply THIS day. In our excessive North American culture that is difficult for us to grasp – we are a culture of two fridges, four televisions, three cars… Instead of THIS day, let’s look after the whole year, heck, our entire lives. Let the prayer read: ‘give us forever, our daily bread.’ We know the bread referred to in the Lord’s Prayer, and the bread offered to Jesus by the tempter, is not only the bread that nourishes our bodies, but also the bread which feeds our souls. Jesus says THIS day we go to God for what we need THIS day, and each day we return to God for what we need. And we will receive what we need for only THIS day, because that is all we need right now. The temptation is to grab what we need for every day. Why I wonder?
Maybe the answer lies in what the other temptations are about: honour and pride. I well understand the temptation of pride, of keeping up appearances, of being concerned with what people think. We want to measure up, even exceed expectations. We want to feel important, valued. We want to feel special, and we strive to do that which we think makes us special, or seen as special. Yet what makes us special has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do; what we have or don’t have. We are special … because we are made in the image and likeness of the One who created us. The temptation, is not to believe that. Yet, if we can accept the special creation we are to the God who created us, regardless of what we may be experiencing in any given moment of our lives, we begin to see all that is extraordinary in the ordinary living of these lives.
Maybe then, it will be easier to respond to the tempter as Jesus did: “Away with you Satan!” And the angels will come and wait on us also.