Last Sunday, the first in the season of Lent, the Gospel reminds us of the temptations of Jesus. The three temptations are still very relevant to us in our lives today.
In the first temptation the devil tested Jesus to break his fast of forty days. At a time when he was most vulnerable he was tested to exercise his divine power to turn stones into loaves to satisfy his hunger. Jesus’ reply was very apt and a good lesson for all of us who are constantly being tempted by the forces of evil around us.
Many of us when in times of extreme difficulty are very vulnerable to steal, cheat and deny others their rights but those are the times when we must remember the words of Jesus that “Man does live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Goodness in our hearts must override ourworldly desires.
The second temptation is about testing God of his power to save us. We may be familiar with the words of some so called holy people who say to Jesus, “if you are really God please do this or that” and if He doesn’t answer their prayers they leave the church. For such people their faith is so shallow who leave God with the slightest failures in their lives. They fail to realize that God gives us all the trials and tribulations for a purpose and in most cases we only understand that when it is too late. Instead of cursing God for his failure to answer our prayers we should heed his calls, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”The third temptation where the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain,
showed him all the kingdoms of the world and
their splendor and promised to give them all to Jesus if fell at his feet and worship him. Jesus firmly rejected the devil’s temptation saying, “Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.”
Today many are willing to trade in their dignity, integrity and morality for some material gain. Power, wealth and lust have become the overwhelming attractions to man who is willing to do anything to attain them. Politicians are willing to forgo their principles and their promises to the people who elected them to acquire wealth and power. They want to become the masters of the very people who they are to serve.
People in high positions use their influence to get rich quickly often by unscrupulous means. Judges submit to corruption and instead of upholding justice mete out unfair judgments on the innocent. The police and other enforcement agencies are willing to execute unjust orders from above, in the process persecute and deny the legitimate rights of defenseless people, all for promotions, material rewards and sexual pleasure.
To such people who adore the devil and his riches, Jesus who flatly refused all such temptations must be seen as impractical and foolish. In this world many who follow Jesus and reject unethical means to acquire power and wealth are indeed being classified as fools who do not know how to make hay when the sun shines. But being such a ‘fool’ is what Jesus wants and that is what we all must do as his followers.
Unfortunately such a materialistic culture seems to have infiltrated into our church as well. The recent clergy seks scandal, impropriation of funds, commercialization of feasts, over-emphasis on church collections and the authoritarian attitude of the clergy who neglect the welfare of the underprivileged parishioners are some glaring examples of the unhealthy trends taking shape.
Having read these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mathew below, it is timely for us to reflect on our own life. Where do we stand in the pursuit of power, wealth and lust in the materialistic world today? Do we have the unwavering courage to uphold truth and justice even when we are tempted with the most valuable riches in the world? When tempted with such worldly pleasures can we be like the ‘fool’ who follows Jesus and say “Away with you Satan, I will only pay homage to God and no one else?”.
Many a times we may want to say no to the devil but our human flesh is weak and we succumb to its rewards. As humans we fall at times but we must pick and move on with Jesus in our hearts. Let us ask Jesus to give us the strength and courage to reject all such temptations however great they may be and stand steadfast to the principles in our life that is molded on the teachings of Jesus.
Gospel Reading for last Sunday - Mathew 4:1-11
5 The devil then took him to the holy city and set him on the parapet of the Temple.
8 Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.
9 And he said to him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.'