1st SUNDAY OF LENT (A)
Sunday 26 February 2023
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil… “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”…
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”…
“All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Tradition identifies the location of Jesus’ temptation as the mountain behind the city of Jericho, called the Mount of Quarantine, named to remember Jesus 40 days in the desert. The Evangelist Matthew gives us the motivation for Jesus being led in to the desert: to be tempted by the devil (called the tempter immediately afterwards, i.e. the ‘experimenter’). The Greek verb (peiràzo) signifies ‘to put to the test’ or ‘to examine’. So, the devil presents himself before Jesus to test Him. Some scholars view the three moments of test as an examination of the three aspects of the Shema Israel (Dt 6:4-5), which is the central teaching of the Bible.
We can see this in the rabbinical interpretation of the aspects of the Shema Israel:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your HEART”: all, meaning with both your impulses – good and bad – adhering completely to the Word of God. Remember that Solomon asks for a heart docile to the Word of God (1 Kings 3:9).
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your SOUL”: in the Bible the blood is considered as the soul, life, and life-giving breath (Lev 17:14). As such, to love God with all the souls means loving Him to the point of giving up your life. Jesus doesn’t allow Himself to be tricked and He is completely ready for martyrdom.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your STRENGTH”, i.e material goods (cfr. Mishnah Berakhot 9:5). Jesus renounces material riches, instead depending every day on the providence of the Father.
The three temptations show that Jesus, the Son of God, loves the Father with all His heart, soul and strength. This is why He is the new Moses who introduces the people to the Promised Land!