The third test

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent and the gospel is the temptation/testing of Jesus in the desert. The climactic scene occurs in Jerusalem, where the devil takes Jesus to the “parapet” of the Temple.

 9 Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and: ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

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The second test

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent and the gospel is the temptation/testing of Jesus in the desert. From the mundane of concerns about daily bread, we are taken to the lofty heights.

5 Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. 6 The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. 7 All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’”

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The first test

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent and the gospel is the temptation/testing of Jesus in the desert.  Jesus has been fasting for forty days. He is hungry and vulnerable – and in a weakened physical and mental state.

1 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert 2 for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

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The background of Jesus’ temptations

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent and the gospel is the temptation/testing of Jesus in the desert.  Before immersing ourselves in the details of the three temptations, perhaps an overview of their OT background would help locate our gospel in context.

The First Temptation (4:3-4): If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.  The response is from Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”  The context in Deuteronomy is that Moses reminds the people of Israel that God tested them in the wilderness by hunger, but he fed them with manna in order to make them understand that one does not live by bread alone. Continue reading

The nature of temptation

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent and the gospel is the temptation/testing of Jesus in the desert. An earlier post today addressed the background of testing/temptation in a broad Scriptural way. This second post narrows that thread to consider the NT witness to the temptation from the four gospels. As well there is short section on temptation and the human will. Continue reading

Testing and temptation

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent and the gospel is the temptation/testing of Jesus in the desert. As often noted, Luke writes with a narrative intent. This is true also for the account of the temptations. Luke 4:1–13 presents a number of key elements linking it to surrounding material, helping to ensure its interpretation as a bridge scene moving Jesus from his reception of the Spirit at his baptism to his public ministry. The most obvious such bridges include references to the other worldly (3:21–22; 4:5), the setting of the wilderness in the vicinity of the Jordan (3:2–3, 4, 21; 4:1, 14), the Holy Spirit (3:22; 4:1, 1, 14, 16), Jesus’ sonship (3:22, 38; 4:3, 9, 41 – If you are the Son of God), the attention to the meaning of Jesus’ mission, and Jesus’ encounter with hostile forces – human and spiritual (4:2–13, 22–30, 33–36). Continue reading

In the wilderness

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent, Lectionary Cycle C. The season of Lent has its own end and purpose, so we should not expect continuity from the previous week that was part of Ordinary Time. Last Sunday the gospel was part of Lukan “Sermon on the Plain.” Depending on the calendar year and the celebration of Easter we might have an early or late start to Lent.  We’ll hear the opening verses of the “Sermon” on the sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, but it is not unusual to not celebrate the 7th and 8th Sundays which carry lots of the details. This year (2022) we did celebrate those two Sundays. (Note: in 2016 we had a very early Easter and so even the 6th Sunday was not celebrated.) Continue reading

For what should we pray?

The first reading all week is from the Letter of James. Today’s “installment” is just one of many insights the letter carries about the human condition: “Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation” (James 1:12).

Temptation: no one wants it, no one can avoid it, and it isn’t going away. When St. Paul refers to the “thorns in his side” (2 Cor 12:7) I think, in part, he is talking about temptation. When Paul asked God to take them away, the answer was simply “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9) Continue reading

It’s your choice

In today’s first reading, the brothers Cain and Abel have just brought an offering to the Lord. Abel brought his best lamb to offer to God in sacrifice. Cain brought some of the first fruits of the harvest, but pointedly not the best. “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not.” (Gen 4:5-6a)

Several commentaries offer that what follows in Genesis 4:6-7 is perhaps the most challenging verse facing translators in the Book of Genesis, or perhaps all of the Hebrew Scriptures. “So, the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”

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Mountain of Temptation

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river and then “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Both the Gospels of Mark and Luke have a similar narrative, placing Jesus at the Jordan River immediately before his temptation in the wilderness. While Christian tradition often describes Jesus’ temptation as occurring in a “desert,” the Greek word eremos primarily means a location that is isolated, uninhabited and unfit for pasture. Continue reading