March 1, 2020
First Sunday in Lent, Year A
The occurrence of Jesus’ temptations in the desert is positioned, in each of the Synoptic Gospels, after the event of Jesus baptism in the Jordan River. Jesus arose from the Jordan filled with the Holy Spirit, of the very life of God.
And it is precisely the Spirit who leads Him into the desert (Mt 4:1), in ordinary life, that life which is put to the test and asks us to unmask our identity, to show who we are.
The identity is exactly that which, in the Jordan River, was revealed as that of being the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased (Mt. 3:17). For Him, therefore, this “who are you?” coincides with “whose son are you? To whom do you belong?”
It is no coincidence, therefore, that the tempter begins with this expression: “If you are the Son of God…” (Mt. 4:3.6). Temptation always pertains to this fundamental aspect of life, it always reaches us here, in our relationship with the Father, because it is from here that our life depends.
In the test, therefore, we see precisely this: if we are children, or not.
Jesus knows well He is a Son and for this reason, the devil tempts Him on the content of this relationship, on how to be so. The devil suggests to Him another way of being Son. The temptation is precisely this, it is the subtle thought that they can be different ways of being sons, that each person can choose his/her own way, that each one can choose a different father from the one they have.
Indeed, there is only one, and Jesus chooses it, without yielding to the temptation to invent a different one. What are the alternative ways the devil suggests? In the diversity of situations, the alternative way is just one, the one where it is not the Son who obeys the Father, but it should be the Father that obeys the Son.
In the first temptation, therefore, it should happen that, if I am hungry, I decide how to change things, how to bend them to my service. Creation should obey me, and the Father should obey me.
For Jesus, instead, it is not like this: because what nourishes, what nourishes the life of the son, is precisely every Word that proceeds from the mouth of my Father, therefore I obey Him (Mt. 4:3-4).
In the second temptation, we move on to another level, but the dynamic is always the same: I can do everything, I dare everything, and so I force the Father to save me, to come to my aid.
For Jesus, instead, I can’t do everything, because I leave the Father free to love me as He wants. I don’t force Him to obey me, but it is I who remain in a filial attitude (Mt. 4:5-7).
And so, for the third temptation: I do not decide which God to adore, because cannot have but just one Father (Mt. 4:8-10).
The work of the devil, the purpose of temptation, from the beginning of sacred history, is to suggest to humans that there is a God different than the one who has been revealed as Father: a God who is not love, who does not give everything, who we cannot fully trust, therefore, it is we who must manage by ourselves, we must save ourselves.
This temptation will come back on the Cross, in a yet more dramatic and subtle way. But, there also, Jesus will choose to listen only to the Father, to trust the Father alone, to worship only one Father.
So, it is evident that at the outset of Lent we are asked to revisit our foundations, our identity, which, like that of Jesus, is nothing other than our being loved children, with the gaze of our heart turned to one Father.