|First Sunday of Lent
- Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written,
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
'He will give his angels charge of you,'
"On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone."
Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God,'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him "Begone, Satan! for it is written,
"You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve."
Then the devil left him, and behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
The gospel that has just been read is one of the most interesting of all the gospels you will hear. It points out what you and Christ have in common. It openly reminds us of the humanity of Christ, and of his vulnerability to temptation. When you talk about the three temptations in this gospel, it is hard to really figure out what these temptations actually mean. Were these temptations mere images that came from the mind of Christ? Or did they actually occur? Scripture scholars have different opinions. But what most of them do agree upon is that this emphasizes the humanness or what is called the humanity of Christ.
All of us have something that links and binds us to Christ. It is our humanity, the fact that we, too, are like Christ and subject to all kinds of temptations.
Many of us have encountered the temptation to give up because of overpowering loneliness. Christ, also experienced this. We have to recall that the Christ who said in the garden of Olives, "my soul is sorrowful unto death" is the same Christ who said, "I will be with you all days, even to the end of time." With Christ we can do anything. We can certainly overcome loneliness.
The second temptation is the temptation of discouragement. There isn't a person alive who hasn't experienced discouragement. The same Christ who said on Calvary, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is the same Christ who tells us that he has come to earth to call us friends and that friendship will be for all eternity in a place called heaven.
The third temptation is the temptation to stop loving. "Greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for a friend." These are the words of a Christ who was hurt by his friends, yet still went on loving them. This is the same Christ who teaches us that grief is the price we pay for love. You are always Christ-like when you offer your love, even if your love is rejected as was Christ's.
These three temptations, the temptation to loneliness, the temptation to discouragement, and the temptation to stop loving were all part of the life of Christ. They will also, because of the humanity that we have in common with Christ, be part of our lives. Through them, we grow in wisdom and grace before God and man. Because of them, because of our work in trying to live with loneliness and discouragement and rejected love, each one of us will hear the words spoken with Christ. "Well done, good and faithful servant, you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."
* * * * * * * * * * *
In the Wilderness
I sit alone on the rocks trying to prepare
a man to teach what the laws of life are.
Sunlight and silence, nurses against disease,
are busy fighting my infirmities.
The life is simple, you could not say rough,
a stream, some cans and firewood are enough
to live on; but a hostile shift of weather
would bring me sharply up on the short tether
of endurance. We haven't survived by strength alone.
We have neither fur nor fangs. I will go home,
just as I rise from sleep, eat and get dressed.
This is one more resort, not last or best.
A teacher in the wilderness alone
learns to make bread and sermons out of stone.
- James Simmons
From the gospels In Our Image, An Anthology of 20th Century Poetry .
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