One can take a moral view of life as an interplay of sin and grace, selfishness and love. Our life will be successful in the measure that we reject the lure of sin and opt to live under the will of God. Today’s Scriptures contrast two responses to temptation. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, preferred their own inclinations to the will of God. Jesus, on the contrary resisted temptation and wanted only what the Father of all life required of him. St Paul reflects on how those radically different options affect ourselves. Adam’s sin brought trouble on all, but we are offered a new kind of life by the fidelity of Christ.
Temptation in one form or another is unavoidable. Honestly examining our daily experience will reveal many hints of temptation. We can recognise impulses and tendencies contrary to our conscience. To justify these temptations and make them socially acceptable and politically correct — is itself an insidious temptation. We claim the right to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, to draw new boundaries of acceptable behaviour, setting aside what God may want of us. This is like Adam wanting to eat the forbidden fruit. Our growth to Christian maturity calls for some moral struggling, to follow the path of Jesus.
The story of his temptations is full of symbolism, but not to be taken lightly. It’s a warning that we can lose our way if we stray from what God wills for us. The first temptation was about hunger. On the surface the tempter’s question was quite reasonable. Why not call on God power to satisfy our hunger. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread,” the tempter says to Jesus. His reply is surprising: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” We must always seek God’s will above all. At every moment we must listen to God’s Word, seek God’s will.
Since he was alone in the desert, only Jesus knew what he felt. But the clear implication is that he had to struggle to find the best way to live his life for God. Jesus seems to toy with the possibility of providing a limitless supply of bread for people, like the daily dole-out of food by which Roman emperors won popularity with their followers. But Jesus saw how a focus on food and drink can lead to forgetting spiritual values. “Man does not live on bread alone.” Our deeper needs are for more than food and drink. Humans need something else as well. We hunger for meaning and for spiritual nurture. To play our part towards our fellow-men, we need to listen to God our Father, who awakens in our conscience a hunger for justice and solidarity.
There is a tendency to reduce our desires to what we can control. But there are things that are of our control. We live in a world that surrounds around money and consumerism. But a consumerist society breeds emptiness and discontent. The suicides keep on rising despite the prosperity. We have the tendency to barricade ourselves within gated communities, And we stop hungry and homeless people from sharing in our prosperity. Often they disturb our peace of mind and we want to ignore it. Jesus tells us that we do not live on bread alone. We need to feed the spirit and develop solidarity with those in need. We need to listen to our conscience and be open to God. A second instinct is that we want to be in power. We want those in power to do what we want and if not we reject them. It happened to Jesus, during his public years people kept asking Jesus for signs and wonders and if he did not said or act as they wanted they rejected him. In a way they wanted him “to leap from the highest point of the wall around Temple and be unharmed”. But such a thing would not win hearts to conversion. He answered, “You must not put the Lord your God to the test!”
For us it is a warning not to be rash and superficial. Finally, in the scene on the mountain-top, seeing all the kingdoms of the world, suggests a temptation to become a political messiah. He dismisses this notion too, since we can be united with God only if we are drawn to it in spirit. The Temptations warn us not to let selfishness rule us. Instead, we listen to the Spirit, who leads our conscience. We imitate Christ by making an honest response to life and accept what God gives us, for good and for bad. Let us pray that the Spirit may be a major influence in our lives and keep us close to the God who made us. Amen.