Gospel Matthew 4:1-11

‘He was very hungry…’

Of course he was!

I get hungry pretty well every hour, on the hour. And if I don’t eat I get all sorts of ‘hangry’ (hunger + anger). Ok, perhaps that’s overstating it, but the idea of not having eaten for 40 days and nights seems to me to be a tremendous feat.

On one level, the inclusion of the detail, ‘he was very hungry’ seems comical, and yet, perhaps it points to something much more profound.

When we read the story that follows we are confronted with an episode which is fantastic – an out of this world tale, shrouded in mystery which we could otherwise dismiss as the work of a fanciful imagination.

But what if we take seriously this otherwise comedic detail. He had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and we are told that it is in this state of what would no doubt be enormous hunger and weakness that he is confronted with these temptations.

Had the author merely been trying to tell an imaginative or inspiring story, this detail would be better left out. Instead, however, its inclusion points to something far more extraordinary – the fact that the author here wants us to take this seriously.

This opens us up to something that should in fact give us tremendous hope. In the letter to the Hebrews we are told, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (4:15)

Despite his sufferings Jesus displayed tremendous strength and fortitude in the face of temptation. Not as an act of sheer will like some sort of stoic hero – but as an act of love. Love received and given.

Jesus did not refuse temptation out of fear of Divine retribution, but because of the relationship of love which he enjoyed with his Father, and with the Holy Spirit. This bond of love is what we are called to share in and to enter into more deeply in this Lenten season.

Point to Ponder

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’

– Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1