The Temptations of Jesus: A model of our response Mt. 4:1-11
Greetings and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ to you all!
1. We begin yet another Season of Lent, a time of prayer and a period of self introspection. This period as it were is a great opportunity for each and every one of us for it offers us space for a deeper personal reflection and grace; for a well-lived Lenten season.
2. This season, I wish to reflect with you on the temptations of Jesus as a model of our response. We are aware of the so many a time that we have wondered away from the presence of God through our natural human instinct for food and drink; luxury and pleasure; security and power.1 Therefore, our Lenten season offers us an opportune time to take stock of ourselves and where need be to make necessary amends.
3. Like our Lord, Jesus Christ who came to serve, He encountered many challenges and temptations, however, He overcame them (Mt.4:11). In His temptations, Jesus makes it clear of our God given status as His children; and that God cares for each and every one of us; and especially in the various responsibilities He has entrusted us with. And in His victory, Jesus ushers in a model of response to the so many challenges that come or may come our way – be it from our families, friends, colleagues, workmates, acquaintances, competitors or indeed our spouses.
4. As we make this journey of life we struggle to make right choices on the way. However, God urges us that: “I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse.
1 Cf. Bishop Alick Banda, “Jesus’ Desert Experience – A summons to Imitate Him,” Lenten Message – 2011. Choose life, then, so that you … may live in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying His voice, holding fast to Him” (Dt. 30:19-20). This counsel is an invitation to a personal encounter with our conscience – to listen attentively to the inner voice within us which dictates -do good and avoid evil. Our Bemba adage has it: “Umweo waba mu Kutwi”.
5. In the first temptation: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Mt. 4:3). Jesus is tempted whether to abuse His status as the Son of God, so as to turn priorities: to live on mere bread (i.e. fame, popularity etc.) than on the Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In His response, Jesus draws attention to the priority of listening to the Word. It is the Word that gives us life and it is the Word that gives us orientation. And St. Paul is right when he says: “Faith comes from hearing”, and indeed hearing from the Word of Christ (cfr. Rom 10:17). And this is the faith leads us into love and service of the other. In this regard Jesus teaches us to feed ourselves more on the Word than mere clatter and chatter that does not satisfy but makes us crave for more clatter and chatter.
6. In His second temptation: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Mt. 4:5-6). Jesus declines to abuse the love and care of God for mere popularity, approval or acceptance of the evil one. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Mt. 4:7).
7. Time and again, we are tempted to use our privileged positions to: perpetrate hate and falsehood at the expense of love and truth; manipulate information to win sympathy; support wrong for ulterior motives. The Germany adage has it: “Lies have short legs,” meaning, lies are short lived. We are therefore, challenged to remain vigilant in our responsibilities, honesty in our undertaking, truthful in our motives and upright in our hearts.
8. In the third temptation the evil one tempts our Lord Jesus Christ: “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” (Mt. 4: 8-9). However Jesus refuses to compromise His mission for material benefits. Jesus was quick to recognize the intention of the evil one and denounced it. “Away from me Satan” (Mt. 4:10).
9. Evil comes our way with a myriad of temptations, but all have the same thrust towards our natural human instincts and unfortunately we do fall prey. More often than not, we compromise: excellence with mediocrity; truth with popularity; dignity with material gain; and integrity with personal advantage. Our Lord teaches us to be weary and unmask the seemingly innocent idols of our life.
10. May this Lenten season offer us an opportunity to listen attentively to the inner voice within us to – do good and avoid evil. May this season of intense prayer, fasting and alms giving lead us into self control and total surrender to the will of God so as to rise above our daily challenges and temptations after the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
11. May Mary, the Immaculate Conceived Mother, intercede for us all. Given this day, the 1st March, on Ash Wednesday in the Year of our Lord, 2017; the Tenth of our Episcopate.
+Dr. Alick Banda
Bishop of Ndola