Gospel Lk 4:1-13
Man does not live on bread alone.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the Church puts before us this account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.
At its most basic level, the story of Jesus’ 40 day period of fasting and prayer is for us a source of strength as we undertake our Lenten journey. With all its difficulties and penances, we are comforted by the fact that that He who is without sin is still very much like us in his capacity to experience real temptation.
At a deeper level however, we can see something perhaps more profound in the story. In the first volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI devoted his second chapter to what is a truly insightful reflection on today’s reading.
In his reflection on the first temptation, the then-Pope pointed out how at its root, this temptation is not so much about Jesus satisfying his own hunger, but that of elevating the second commandment, to love one’s neighbour, over the first, to love God.
Often we experience the temptation to reduce the Gospel to meeting the physical and social needs of those around us. When this happens our charitable works become nothing more than mere philanthropy, which often leaves out the personal dimension in our call to care for the poor. While our attempts to feed the hungry are indeed well intentioned, Jesus’ response to this temptation, that “man does not live by bread alone” causes us to ask the question ‘what then, does he “live” by?’
According to Benedict, “At the heart of all temptations … is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives” (p. 28)
We stand in need of a constant reminder that God is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart, and that the ongoing temptation to satisfy these longings without God will always end in greater suffering.
Point to Ponder
“Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves? The God question is the fundamental question, and sets us down right at the crossroads of human existence”
(Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol.1, p.29)