1st Sunday of Lent (C)
Temptation of Jesus
Commentary | Talking Points
- In today’s Gospel passage, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
- Just as God led Israel out of Egypt, nourished them for forty years in the desert, and gave them the Promised Land, so God would care for Jesus during and after his forty days in the desert.
- Jesus passed the test because his trust in God never wavered.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
SERMON WRITER: Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted, but does not describe the temptations (Mark 1:12-13). Matthew lists three temptations in this order: bread, pinnacle, and kingdoms (Matt. 4:3-9). Luke reverses the last two temptations—changing the order to bread, kingdoms, and pinnacle. He does this as part of his emphasis on Jerusalem. Nearly half of this Gospel consists of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (9:51—19:44), and Jesus’ ministry climaxes in Jerusalem with his death and resurrection. Luke therefore has his temptation story build toward Jerusalem in keeping with the movement of the larger story (Fitzmyer, 507).
LARRY BRODING – The temptation of bread represented the miracles of Jesus [3-4]. The temptation of temporal power represented his leadership in the Church community [5-7]. And the temptation in Jerusalem represented his growing popularity which had its peak when Jesus entered the capital [9-12].
Who’s Who (vv 1-2)
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert… to be tempted by the devil
FR. GEORGE SMIGA – There is nothing like a conversation with the devil to seize your attention. A confrontation with the Prince of Darkness certainly breaks the routine of life. The story of Jesus’ temptation is the only scene in the gospels where Jesus and the devil have a conversation. It stands apart from every narrative in the gospels. It is unique. (From sermon Another Purpose for Lent, 2004)
The devil is coming not so much to tempt Jesus as to fight with him. This scene is a struggle, a battle. The battle is against evil, and every subsequent scene in Jesus’ ministry is a continuation of it.
- When Jesus heals a man who is crippled, he is not simply doing an action of kindness for an unfortunate individual. He is declaring that it is God’s intention to destroy every sickness, to eliminate whatever cripples human life.
- When Jesus heals a blind man, he is not simply reaching out to an individual in the darkness. He is declaring that it is God’s intention to eradicate every kind of blindness—the blindness which would put greed above service or violence above love, the blindness that would put coercion over human respect.
- When Jesus teaches the crowds on the hillside, he is not simply giving advice to those who would listen. He is revealing that there is a truth that can be used to confront evil and destroy it, a truth that will oppose prejudice, manipulation, and hate. (From sermon The Battle with the Devil, 2004)
Devil as “The Accuser”
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – The word diabolos in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) and the New Testament is usually rendered as “devil;” however, in Hebrew, the word is satan, meaning “adversary” or “accuser” as in a court of law and is written as ha satan, “the satan,” with the article “the.” Old Testament examples of this imagery:
- In the book of Job, where “the satan” is standing in the heavenly court accusing the man Job (Job 1:1-8).
- Another example is found in the use of the word “accuser/satan” in Ps 109:5b-7: My enemies say of me: Find a lying witness, an [the] accuser [ha satan] to stand by his right hand, that he may be judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain.
- The most frequent use in the Old Testament, however, is in the metaphorical sense of an adversary (for example, see 1 Sam 29:4).
Every place the word “Satan” appears in the Old Testament, the definite article “the” precedes it; the one exception is in 1 Chronicles 21:1, where it is a proper name.
ANDREW BROOKES O.P. – The adult generation of Jews that entered the desert with Moses after escaping from Egypt failed the trials they faced. They then died in the desert over a period of 40 years, and did not enter the blessings of the Promised Land. Jesus entered the desert and remained there for 40 days as a trial. Satan, who was permitted by God to test the righteous man Job, was now given permission to test the righteous Jesus.
Jesus’ as “Son of God”
DR KIERAN O’MAHONY – “Son of God” links the temptation to the birth story: The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35). The title also makes a link with the crucial question at the trial before the Sanhedrin: All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” (Luke 22:70)
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Satan began the test by asking Jesus to prove that He is God’s Son. Perhaps Satan was not certain that Jesus was the promised Redeemer-Messiah, or he wanted to lure Jesus into the sin of rebellion against God. Therefore, he tested Jesus… Later in the New Testament Gospels, it is clear that the demons recognized Jesus’s true identity as the divine Son of God (i.e., Mt 8:29; Mk 1:24; 5:7; Lk 4:34, 41; 8:28). The title “son of God” was a title used in the Old Testament: See Job 1:16; Ex 4:22; Wis 18:13; Dt 14:1-2; Mt 5:9, 45; Ps 2:7; 89:27/26; 2 Sam 7:8, 12-14; 1 Chr 17:13.
The Holy Spirit
FR. CLEMENT THIBODEAU – “Full of the Holy Spirit” occurs only here and in Acts for Stephen and Barnabas. Thus, Jesus becomes the model for the Christian and for the Church. The Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism. The Holy Spirit fills the heart and mind of Christian disciples so that they can become what they were called to be. The Church, too, has to be filled with the Spirit so that it can fulfill its mission
SERMON WRITER – Jesus is “full of the Holy Spirit,” (4:1) and the Spirit helps him to survive temptation. For Luke, the Holy Spirit is the beginning of everything important.
🎨 ART CONNECTION
Limbourg brothers, “The Temptation of Christ” (15th c.)
LOYOLA PRESS (2:51) – The scene is a conflation of the three temptations Jesus experienced in the desert. On top of the castle’s tower, he is experiencing the heights the devil asked him to jump from, and seeing all the riches of the world that might entice him. The devil completes the narrative by handing Jesus a stone to turn into bread.
RELATED VIDEO (8:06): The Temptation of Christ: 34 Religious Paintings
Old Testament Background
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days…
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Jesus’s tests took place after His forty days in the desert wilderness, and the Book of Deuteronomy takes place after Israel’s forty years of desert wandering.
- Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger (Ex 16:3; Dt 8:2-3)
- Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:7; Dt 6:16)
- Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry in worshiping the Golden Calf (Ex 32:1-6; Dt 6:12-15)
Exhortations and Instructions of Moses
ANDREW BROOKES O.P. – Jesus used the exhortations and instructions of Moses to refute Satan in each temptation.
- Moses had explained that the Jews experienced hunger to learn that ‘man does not live on bread alone’ and that receiving the word of God and keeping the commands was a greater form of nourishment.
- Secondly, God, and no other power, had saved them, and they were ‘to serve God alone’ if they wished to remain in God’s blessings.
- Finally, Moses said they should ‘not put God to the test’ by grumbling about God and his providence, or resisting God’s will and deliberately doing things another way.
In his desert trial, Jesus succeeded where that generation of Jews failed and he also fulfilled these exhortations of Moses.
Jesus’ Temptations: Adam’s Temptations
SERMON WRITER: “ the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). We might think of Adam, created in the image of God, according to God’s likeness (Genesis 1:26-37) as the first Son of God. Like Jesus, Adam was also tested. Like Jesus, he was tempted by food (fruit rather than bread, but food nevertheless). Unlike Jesus, who was famished after a long fast, Adam had plenty of food at his disposal—but Adam failed the test anyway (Genesis 3). Unlike Adam, Jesus proves faithful even under the most severe testing.
Jesus Quotes Scripture
It is Written…
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – In Jesus’s contest with Satan, the devil addressed Jesus three times. Jesus responded by quoting Scripture three times using the formula “it is written” twice in verses 4 and 8. The devil quoted Scripture once from Psalm 91:10-12 and used the formula statement “it is written” once (verse 10).
SERMON WRITER: Jesus quotes scripture in response to each of the three temptations. He knows scripture—has studied it from his boyhood.
In his hands, scripture becomes a “sword of the Spirit” for his defense (Ephesians 6:17). His intimacy with scripture is so complete that he can, without hesitation, find the exact verse with which to counter the particular danger at hand.
🔴 CATHOLIC PRAXIS
The Rosary as a Spiritual Sword
POPE PIUS XI – “The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin”
CLARIFYING CATHOLICISM – Each decade has a mystery associated with it that highlights an event in Jesus’ life. Part of the beauty of the Rosary is the repetition which allows for deeper meditation on the mysteries. While repeating the familiar prayers, you can fully immerse yourself into the scene of the mystery, seeing the event through the eyes of Jesus and Mary. You can imagine the sights, smells, and sounds of the scene and how those present felt at the time and contemplate how the mystery relates to you and your life.
Through this meditation and reflection, the Rosary can never be boring; each time you pray the Rosary, you can have a completely different experience. The Rosary itself stays the same, but we do not. Every day, our experiences, questions, difficulties, and strengths change, and the aspect of personal meditation allows the Rosary to adapt and lets God speak to us about all our greatest needs. (Catherine Stodola, University of Alabama)
First Temptation (v. 3-4)
“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
Comparison Between Matthew and Luke
SERMON WRITER: Luke’s account differs from Matthew’s in a small, but possibly significant detail:
- In Matthew, the tempter says, “command that these stones (plural) become bread” (plural) perhaps suggesting that Jesus should make bread, not only for himself, but also for other hungry people.
- In Luke, the devil says, “command this stone (singular) to become bread” (singular), suggesting that Jesus should relieve his own hunger.
These are very different temptations. In Matthew’s account, the appeal seems to be to Jesus’ compassion for others. In Luke’s account, the appeal is more basic—more personal. While the appeal to compassion is strong, the appeal to self is often stronger. People (and Jesus is human) have a strong will to survive. It is possible to make a good case for personal survival. Flight attendants are taught to insure their personal survival in a crash so that they will be alive to help surviving passengers. Parents need to survive to care for their children. Jesus needed to survive so that he could carry out his ministry—didn’t he!
Note that the first temptation is insignificant. What can be the harm of one loaf of bread? It will strengthen Jesus for ministry. Certainly nobody will miss one stone from the many that carpet the desert floor. The second and third temptations are dramatic, but the power of the first temptation lies in its subtlety.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – In the first test, Satan approached Jesus to test Him to see if He would reveal Himself as the divine Messiah by commanding a rock to turn into bread to feed His hunger; no ordinary “son of God” would have that power over the natural world.
SR. MARY MCGLONE – When Jesus answers that he does not live by bread alone, it is no vow to live hungry. (Remember, the Gospels are much more apt to portray Jesus as frequenting banquets than foregoing food — he even defends his disciples who break Sabbath restrictions to get a snack.) The point of Jesus’ response about bread is not to promote fasting, but a declaration that he believes in God’s providence more than in his own desires or plans. John 4:34 underlines the same idea when Jesus tells his disciples, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.”
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Jesus responded to Satan’s test by quoting from Deuteronomy. In Dt 8:2-3. The context of Moses’ remarks in Deuteronomy Chapter 8 links the manna from Heaven to a test in obedience. The “word of God” (Dt 8:3), and the description of Canaan as a new Eden, gives us greater insight into Jesus’s reply to Satan in the first test (see Ex 16:1a, Jn 1:1, and 6:28-35, 47-58 where Jesus referred to the “manna of the fathers” and then to Himself as “the bread which comes down from Heaven”).
Notice the irony in Jesus’s response to Satan when He said that it was not material bread that nourishes the physical body and ultimately gives life but the Word of God. In the Old Covenant, “life” meant obedience to the Law of God, but there is more to Jesus’s response to Satan than the meaning of “life” in the Old Covenant. The irony is that Jesus is Himself the “Living Word,” and He is the “Living Bread come down from Heaven.” Jesus ultimately gives the gift of life that lasts to eternity, and the “bread” that He will provide to provide eternal life is not like the manna that only gave temporal life. His “manna” is His Body which is “the Living Bread” and the future gift of the Eucharist. Jesus’s Body becomes the real Tree of Life that sustains man’s immortality, like the Tree of Life in Eden. Jesus will give humanity the necessary spiritual nourishment on the journey to the new Eden, God’s home in Heaven.
Second Temptation (v. 5-8)
“All this will be yours,
if you worship me.”
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY– In the second test, the devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth if He will bow down and worship him. As the ruler of the world, Satan does have the authority to make this offer (see Jn 12:31 and CCC 550 and 2853). From the time of humanity’s fall from grace, when Adam and Eve rejected God’s sovereignty over them, Satan became the “prince of the earth.”
SR. MARY MCGLONE – Ultimately, this is a temptation to worship power — whether by directly dedicating himself to acquiring it or indirectly through collaboration with or submission to demonic power. Jesus’ response, taken from Deuteronomy as was his first, is that only God deserves worship. Nothing else is valuable enough to merit his dedication.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – In His response to Satan, Jesus referred to Deuteronomy 6:13. Do not miss Jesus’s point in quoting from this passage. Compare His faith and obedience to God to the failures of Adam and Israel. Unlike the Israelites, who were the “firstborn sons of God” among the nations of the earth, and unlike Adam, God’s firstborn son in the human family, Jesus is the true Son whose allegiance cannot be swayed by hardship. He was not like the Israelites, who demonstrated their loss of loyalty and faith by worshipping the Golden Calf. Nor was He tempted by Satan’s promises of self-glorification, to which Adam submitted himself when Satan promised Adam he would be god-like if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. Jesus’s loyalty and obedience belong to God the Father alone.
Third Temptation (v. 9-12)
“Throw yourself down from here... He will command his angels concerning you to guard you”
MSGR. JOSEPH PELLEGRINO – The parapet was the extension of the roof of the Temple over its wall. It must have been a scary place to stand, even if you are not afraid of heights. The Lord may have had the feeling most of us have when we are at the observation window of a skyscraper, or the edge of a steep cliff. He might have been afraid that he might fall.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – In the third test, Satan quoted from Psalm 91:11-12, Notice that the devil, the deceiver and ancient serpent/dragon, failed to add verse 13 to the quote. For a third time, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, refusing to “test” God by demanding a supernatural show of power, unlike the Israelites.
SR. MARY MCGLONE – This can be seen as a temptation to manipulate God or to use religion as an insurance policy. Ultimately, it suggests the hope or belief that God’s own will never suffer — a theory that is untenable in light of the lives of the prophets and undone by the Book of Job.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Jesus’s third test recalled the Israelites’ failure at Massah. In Deuteronomy 6:16, Moses told the people: You shall not put the LORD [YHWH], your God, to the test, as you did at Massah. He was referring to the events in Exodus 17:1-7 when the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” (Ex 17:7). At Massah, the thirsty Israelites challenged God to provide them with water, behaving rebelliously instead of demonstrating faith and trust in God’s power to meet their needs. Moses’ message to the Israelites was rather than testing God, they should be loyal, diligent, and obedient. Likewise, Yahweh’s promised blessings in the Promised Land were conditional upon Israel’s obedience. Jesus is God’s faithful and obedient Son. His response to Satan was that He would not test God; He would put His trust and faith in His Father’s will and the divine plan for His life.
SERMON WRITER: Jesus used scripture to counter two temptations, so the devil couches the third temptation in Biblical language, quoting from Psalm 91:11-12. This is not a Messianic psalm—a promise to protect the Messiah from harm—but is rather a hymn of praise for the protection that God affords the faithful… In Luke’s mind, the challenge to jump from the pinnacle is the climactic temptation, because it tempts Jesus to let Satan save him from death—perhaps not just now but also at the cross. Jesus must also find this offer quite tempting. He knows that the Father’s will is that he die on the cross, but perhaps the tempter can find an easier way for Jesus to fulfill his mission.
ANDREW BROOKES O.P. – At the beginning of Lent let us ask him to show each of us how to discipline our body and restrain our physical needs; how to worship God better in prayer; and, rather than grumble against him or test him, how to serve him by generously obeying his call to love others, dying to our selfishness in the process.
FR. JOHN MCKINNON – With Jesus’ experience as background, I would like to look today at the Lenten journey that we have just begun…The occasion suggests that we consider the value of having a specially focussed time where we look again at the well-tried traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Prayer is where everything starts. Without prayer, we inevitably get Lent wrong… Fasting is a means to our becoming ever more genuinely human, lovingly human. Fasting is to be understood as the generic heading for the various shapes of inner discipline needed for that human growth to become real… Almsgiving, too, springs from our having been created to love, and becoming human through loving.
🔴 CATHOLIC PRAXIS
Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving
📺 BISHOP BARRON (1 MINUTE CLIP) – Two examples of Almsgiving During Lent
JAIME L. WATERS – Julia Greeley’s life was filled with various obstacles, beginning with a notably abusive experience of slavery in Missouri. After obtaining freedom, Greeley relocated to Colorado and spent much of her life in service to her community. A Secular Franciscan, who was known as Denver’s “Angel of Charity” or “Angel of Mercy,” Greeley devoted her life to helping families in need, delivering food, clothing and supplies. Tradition has it that she pulled a red wagon full of goods, and often made deliveries at night so as not to embarrass white families who might feel ashamed to receive help from a Black woman. Facing and overcoming many complex challenges, Greeley’s tenacity, faith and service can inspire us to use this Lent for personal growth so that we can draw closer to God and one another.
In January 2014, the Archdiocese of Denver officially opened an investigation for her sainthood. As of May 2021, her official inquiry was accepted and validated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and a positio summarizing her life began to be written.
Devil Does Not Give Up (v. 13)
He departed from him for a time
SERMON WRITER – The devil does not give up, but just bides his time:
- He will inspire the scribes and Pharisees to attempt to ensnare Jesus.
- He will inspire others to demand a sign from Jesus (11:16, 29-32).
- He will surely be present with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, hoping that Jesus can be dissuaded at the last moment from his mission (22:39-46).
- He will wound Jesus with the betrayal, not only of Judas, but also of Peter (22:3, 54-62).
- At the cross, he will mock Jesus through the voices of the leaders, the soldiers, and the criminal (23:35-39).
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – After completing His covenant ordeal, the angels of the heavenly court came to minister/serve Jesus (Mt 4:11). However, the devil has only departed “for a time.” The devil will return to test God the Son a final time. Jesus’s final test will come as He prays alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and then makes His last act of obedience and submission to the will of God the Father.
CROSS REFERENCES SOURCE: B. Blayney, Thomas Scott, and R.A. Torrey with John Canne, Browne, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, vol. 2 (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, n.d.).
1. And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
2. Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
3. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
4. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
THEOPHYLACT. Christ is tempted after His baptism, shewing us that after we are baptized, temptations await us. Hence it is said, But Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit, &c.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. God said in times past, My Spirit shall not always abide in men, for that they are flesh. (Gen. 6:3. Vulg.) But now that we have been enriched with the gift of regeneration by water and the Spirit, we are become partakers of the Divine nature by participation of the Holy Spirit. But the first-born among many brethren first received the Spirit, who Himself also is the giver of the Spirit, that we through Him might also receive the grace of the Holy Spirit.
ORIGEN. When therefore you read that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, and it is written in the Acts concerning the Apostles, that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, you must not suppose that the Apostles were equal to the Saviour. For as if you should say, These vessels are full of wine or oil, you would not thereby affirm them to be equally full, so Jesus and Paul were full of the Holy Spirit, but Paul’s vessel was far less than that of Jesus, and yet each was filled according to its own measure. Having then received baptism, the Saviour, being full of the Holy Spirit, which came upon Him from heaven in the form of a dove, was led by the Spirit, because, as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God, (Rom. 8:14.) but He was above all, especially the Son of God.
BEDE. That there might be no doubt by what Spirit He was led, while the other Evangelists say, into the wilderness, Luke has purposely added, And he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days. That no unclean spirit should be thought to have prevailed against Him, who being full of the Holy Spirit did whatever He wished.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus.) But if we order our lives according to our own will, how was He led about unwillingly? Those words then, He was led by the Spirit, have some meaning of this kind: He led of His own accord that kind of life, that He might present an opportunity to the tempter.
BASIL. For not by word provoking the enemy, but by His actions rousing him, He seeks the wilderness. For the devil delights in the wilderness, he is not wont to go into the cities, the harmony of the citizens troubles him.
AMBROSE. He was led therefore into the wilderness, to the intent that He might provoke the devil, for if the one had not contended, the other it seems had not conquered. In a mystery, it was to deliver that Adam from exile who was cast out of Paradise into the wilderness. By way of example, it was to shew us that the devil envies us, whenever we strive after better things; and that then we must use caution, lest the weakness of our minds should lose us the grace of the mystery. Hence it follows: And he was tempted of the devil.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Behold, He is among the wrestlers, who as God awards the prizes. He is among the crowned, who crowns the heads of the saints.
GREGORY. (3. Mor. sup. Job 2.) Our enemy was however unable to shake the purpose of the Mediator between God and men. For He condescended to be tempted outwardly, yet so that His soul inwardly, resting in its divinity, remained unshaken.
ORIGEN. But Jesus is tempted by the devil forty days, and what the temptations were we know not. They were perhaps omitted, as being greater than could be committed to writing.
BASIL. Or, the Lord remained for forty days untempted, for the devil knew that He fasted, yet hungered not, and dared not therefore approach Him. Hence it follows: And he eat nothing in those days. He fasted indeed, to shew that He who would gird Himself for struggles against temptation must be temperate and sober.
AMBROSE. There are three things which united together conduce to the salvation of man; The Sacrament, The Wilderness, Fasting. No one who has not rightly contended receives a crown, but no one is admitted to the contest of virtue, except first being washed from the stains of all his sins, he is consecrated with the gift of heavenly grace.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 40.) He fasted in truth forty days, eating nothing. (For He was God.) But we regulate our fasting according to our strength, although the zeal of some persuades them to fast beyond what they are able.
BASIL. (ex Const. Mon.) But we must not however so use the flesh, that through want of food our strength should waste away, nor that by excess of mortification our understandings wax dull and heavy. Our Lord therefore, once performed this work, but during this whole succeeding time He governed His body with due order, and so in like manner did Moses and Elias.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 13. in Matt.) But very wisely, He exceeded not their number of days, lest indeed He should be thought to have come in appearance only, and not to have really received the flesh, or lest the flesh should seem to be something beyond human nature.
AMBROSE. But mark the mystical number of days. For you remember that for forty days the waters of the deep were poured forth, and by sanctifying a fast of that number of days, He brings before us the returning mercies of a calmer sky. By a fast of so many days also, Moses earned for himself the understanding of the law. Our fathers being for so many years settled in the wilderness, obtained the food of Angels.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 4.) Now that number is a sacrament of our time and labour, in which under Christ’s discipline we contend against the devil, for it signifies our temporal life. For the seasons of the year run in courses of four, but forty contains four tens. Again, those ten are completed by the number one successively advancing up to four. This plainly shews that the fast of forty days, i. e. the humiliation of the soul, the Law and the Prophets have consecrated by Moses and Elias, the Gospel by the fast of our Lord Himself.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) But because not to suffer hunger is above the nature of man, our Lord took upon Himself the feeling of hunger, and submitted Himself as it pleased Him to human nature, both to do and to suffer those things which were His own. Hence it follows: And those days being ended, he was a hungered. Not forced to that necessity which overpowers nature, but as if provoking the devil to the conflict. For the devil, knowing that wherever hunger is there is weakness, sets about to tempt Him, and as the deviser or inventer of temptations, Christ permitting him tries to persuade Him to satisfy His appetite with the stones. As it follows; But the devil said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command these stones that they be made bread.
AMBROSE. There are three especial weapons which we are taught the devil is wont to arm himself with, that he may wound the soul of man. One is of the appetite, another of boasting, the third ambition. He began with that wherewith he had already conquered, namely, Adam. Let us then beware of the appetite, let us beware of luxury, for it is a weapon of the devil. But what mean his words, If thou art the Son of God, unless he had known that the Son would come, but supposed Him not to have come from the weakness of His body. He first endeavours to find Him out, then to tempt Him. He professes to trust Him as God, then tries to deceive Him as man.
ORIGEN. When a father is asked by his son for bread, he does not give him a stone for bread, but the devil like a crafty and deceitful foe gives stones for bread.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) He tried to persuade Christ to satisfy His appetite with stones, i. e. to shift his desire from the natural food to that which was beyond nature or unnatural.
ORIGEN. I suppose also that even now at this very time the devil shews a stone to men that he may tempt them to speak, saying to them, Command this stone to be made bread. If thou seest the heretics devouring their lying doctrines as if they were bread, know that their teaching is a stone which the devil shews them.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) But Christ while He vanquishes temptation, banishes not hunger from our nature, as though that were the cause of evils, (which is rather the preservative of life, but confining nature within its proper bounds, shews of what kind its nourishment is, as follows; And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.
THEOPHYLACT. As if He said, Not by bread alone is human nature sustained, but the word of God is sufficient to support the whole nature of man. Such was the food of the Israelites when they gathered manna during the space of forty years, and when they delighted in the taking of quails. (Exod. 16:15, Numb. 11:32) By the Divine counsel Elias had the crows to entertain him; (1 Kings 17:6) Elisha fed his companions on the herbs of the field. (2 Kings 4:44.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Or, our earthly body is nourished by earthly food, but the reasonable soul is strengthened by the Divine Word, to the right ordering of the spirit.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Poem. Mor. x. 624.) For the body nourishes not our immaterial nature.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (in Eccles. Hom. 5.) Virtue then is not sustained by bread, nor by flesh does the soul keep itself in health and vigour, but by other banquets than these is the heavenly life fostered, and increased. The nourishment of the good man is chastity, his bread, wisdom, his herbs, justice, his drink, freedom from passion, his delight, (εὐφροσύνη quasi ex εὐφρόνειν) to be rightly wise.
AMBROSE. You see then what kind of arms He uses to defend man against the assaults of spiritual wickedness, and the allurements of the appetite. He does not exert His power as God, (for how had that profited me,) but as man He summons to Himself a common aid, that while intent upon the food of divine reading He may neglect the hunger of the body, and gain the nourishment of the word. For he who seeks after the word cannot feel the want of earthly bread; for divine things doubtless make up for the loss of human. At the same time by saying, Man lives not by bread alone, He shews that man was tempted, that is, our flesh which He assumed, not His own divinity.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.
5. And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
6. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
7. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
8. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
THEOPHYLACT. The enemy had first assailed Christ by the temptation of the appetite, as also he did Adam. He next tempts Him with the desire of gain or covetousness, shewing Him all the kingdoms of the world. Hence it follows, And the devil taking him up.
GREGORY. (Hom. 6. in Ev.) What marvel that He permitted Himself to be led by the devil into the mountains, who even endured to be crucified in His own body?
THEOPHYLACT. But how did the devil shew Him all the kingdoms of the world? Some say that he presented them to Him in imagination, but I hold that he brought them before Him in visible form and appearance.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Or, the devil described the world in language, and as he thought brought it vividly before our Lord’s mind as though it were a certain house.
AMBROSE. Truly in a moment of time, the kingdoms of this world are described. For here it is not so much the rapid glance of sight which is signified as is declared the frailty of mortal power. For in a moment all this passes by, and oftentimes the glory of this world has vanished before it has arrived. It follows, And he said unto him, I will give thee all this power.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. (non occ.) He lied in two respects. For he neither had to give, nor could he give that which he had not; he gains possession of nothing, but is an enemy reduced to fight.
AMBROSE. For it is elsewhere said, that all power is from God. (Rom. 13:1.) Therefore from God’s hands comes the disposal of power, the lust of power is from the evil one; power is not itself evil, but he who evilly uses it. What then; is it good to exercise power, to desire honour? Good if it is bestowed upon us, not if it is seized. We must distinguish however in this good itself. There is one good use of the world, another of perfect virtue. It is good to seek God; it is a good thing that the desire of becoming acquainted with God should be hindered by no worldly business. But if he who seeks God, is from the weakness of the flesh, and the narrowness of his mind, often tempted, how much more is he exposed who seeks the world? We are taught then to despise ambition, because it is subject to the power of the devil. But honour abroad is followed by danger at home, and in order to rule others a man is first their servant, and prostrates himself in obedience that he may be rewarded with honours, and the higher he aspires the lower he bends with feigned humility; whence he adds, If thou will fall down and worship me.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. And dost thou, whose lot is the unquenchable fire, promise to the Lord of all that which is His own? Didst thou think to have Him for thy worshipper, from dread of whom the whole creation trembles?
ORIGEN. Or, to view the whole in another light. Two kings are earnestly contending for a kingdom; The king of sin who reigneth over sinners, that is, the devil; The king of righteousness who ruleth the righteous, that is, Christ. The devil, knowing that Christ had come to take away his kingdom, shews Him all the kingdoms of the world; not the kingdoms of the Persians and of the Medes, but his own kingdom whereby he reigned in the world, whereby some are under the dominion of fornication, others of covetousness. And he shews Him them in a moment of time, that is, in the present course of time, which is but a moment in comparison of eternity. For the Saviour needed not to be shewn for any longer time the affairs of this world, but as soon as He turned His eyes to look, He beheld sins reigning, and men made slaves to vice. The devil therefore says unto Him, Camest Thou to contend with me for dominion? Worship me, and behold I give Thee the kingdom I hold. Now the Lord would indeed reign, but being Righteousness itself, would reign without sin; and would have all nations subject to Him, that they might obey the truth, but would not so reign over others as that He Himself should be subject to the devil. Hence it follows, And Jesus answering said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God.
BEDE. The devil saying to our Saviour, If thou wilt fall down and worship me, receives answer that he himself ought rather to worship Christ as his Lord and God.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (in Thes. 32.) But how comes it that the Son (if as the heretics say a created being) is worshipped? What charge can be brought against those who served the creature and not the Creator, if the Son (according to them a created being) we are to worship as God?
ORIGEN. Or else, All these, he says, I would have subject to me, that they might worship the Lord God, and serve Him alone. But dost thou wish sin to begin from Me, which I came hither to destroy?
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. This command touched him to the quick; for before Christ’s coming he was every where worshipped. But the law of God casting him down from his usurped dominion, establishes the worship of Him alone who is really God.
BEDE. But some one may ask how this injunction agrees with the word of the Apostle, which says, Beloved, serve one another. (Gal. 5:13.) In the Greek, δουλεία signifies a common service, (i. e. given either to God or man,) according to which we are bid to serve one another; but λατρεία is the service due to the worship of the Deity, with which we are bid to serve God alone.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.
9. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
10. For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee:
11. And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
13. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
AMBROSE. The next weapon he uses is that of boasting, which always causes the offender to fall down; for they who love to boast of the glory of their virtue descend from the stand and vantage ground of their good deeds. Hence it is said, And he led him to Jerusalem.
ORIGEN. He followed evidently as a wrestler, gladly setting out to meet the temptation, and saying, as it were, Lead me where you will, and you will find me the stronger in every thing.
AMBROSE. It is the fate of boasting, that while a man thinks he is climbing higher, he is by his pretension to lofty deeds brought low. Hence it follows, And he said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down.
ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) The devil entered not into a contest with God, (for he durst not, and therefore said, If thou art the Son of God,) but he contended with man whom once he had power to deceive.
AMBROSE. That is truly the devil’s language, which seeks to cast down the soul of man from the high ground of its good deeds, while he shews at the same time both his weakness and malice, for he can injure no one that does not first cast himself down. For he who forsaking heavenly things pursues earthly, rushes as it were wilfully down the self-sought precipice of a falling life. As soon then as the devil perceived his dart blunted, he who had subdued all men to his own power, began to think he had to deal with more than man. But Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and often from the Holy Scriptures weaves his mesh for the faithful: hence it follows, It is written, He shall give, &c.
ORIGEN. Whence knowest thou, Satan, that those things are written? Hast thou read the Prophets, or the oracles of God? Thou hast read them indeed, but not that thyself mightest be the better for the reading, but that from the mere letter thou mightest slay them who are friends to the letter. (2 Cor. 3:6.) Thou knowest that if thou wert to speak from His other books, thou wouldest not deceive.
AMBROSE. Let not the heretic entrap thee by bringing examples from the Scriptures. The devil makes use of the testimony of the Scriptures not to teach but to deceive.
ORIGEN. But mark how wily he is even in this testimony. For he would fain throw a slur upon the glory of the Saviour, as though He needed the assistance of angels, and would stumble were He not supported by their hands. But this was said not of Christ, but of the saints generally; He needs not the aid of angels, Who is greater than angels. But let this teach thee, Satan, that the angels would stumble did not God sustain them; and thou stumblest, because thou refusest to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God. But why art thou silent as to what follows, Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk, (Ps. 91:13.) except that thou art the basilisk, thou art the dragon and the lion?
AMBROSE. But the Lord, to prevent the thought that those things which had been prophesied of Him were fulfilled according to the devil’s will, and not by the authority of His own divine power, again so foils his cunning, that he who had alleged the testimony of Scripture, should by Scripture himself be overthrown. Hence it follows, And Jesus answering said, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
CHRYSOSTOM. For it is of the devil to cast one’s self into dangers, and try whether God will rescue us.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. God gives not help to those who tempt Him, but to those who believe on Him. Christ therefore did not shew His miracles to them that tempted Him, but said to them, An evil generation seeketh a sign, and no sign shall be given to them. (Mat. 12:39.)
CHRYSOSTOM. But mark how the Lord, instead of being troubled, condescends to dispute from the Scriptures with the wicked one, that thou, as far as thou art able, mightest become like Christ. The devil knew the arms of Christ, beneath which he sunk. Christ took him captive by meekness, He overcame him by humility. Do thou also, when thou seest a man who has become a devil coming to meet thee, subdue him in like manner. Teach thy soul to conform its words to those of Christ. For as a Roman judge, who on the bench refuses to hear the reply of one who knows not how to speak as he does; so also Christ, except thou speakest after His manner, will neither hear thee nor protect thee.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) In lawful contests the battle is terminated either when the adversary surrenders of his own accord to the conqueror, or is defeated in three falls, according to the rules of the art of fighting. Hence it follows, And all the temptation being completed, &c.
AMBROSE. He would not have said that all the temptation was ended, had there not been in the three temptations which have been described the materials for every crime; for the causes of temptations are the causes of desire, namely, the delight of the flesh, the pomp of vain-glory, greediness of power.
ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) The enemy came to Him as man, but not finding in Him the marks of his ancient seed, he departed.
AMBROSE. You see then that the devil is not obstinate on the field, is wont to give way to true virtue; and if he ceases not to hate, he yet dreads to advance, for so he escapes a more frequent defeat. As soon then as he heard the name of God, he retired (it is said) for a season, for afterwards he comes not to tempt, but to fight openly.
THEOPHYLACT. Or, having tempted Him in the desert with pleasure, he retires from Him until the crucifixion, when he was about to tempt Him with sorrow.
MAXIMUS. (lib. ad. piet. ex. 12.) Or the devil had prompted Christ in the desert to prefer the things of the world to the love of God. The Lord commanded him to leave Him, (which itself was a mark of Divine love.) It was afterwards then enough to make Christ appear the false advocate of love to His neighbours, and therefore while He was teaching the paths of life, the devil stirred up the Gentiles and Pharisees to lay traps for Him that He might be brought to hate them. But the Lord, from the feeling of love which He had towards them, exhorted, reproved, ceased not to bestow mercy upon them.
AUGUSTINE. (de con. Ev. lib. ii. c. 6.) The whole of this narrative Matthew relates in a similar manner, but not in the same order. It is uncertain therefore which took place first, whether the kingdoms of the earth were first shewn unto Him, and He was afterwards taken up to the pinnacle of the temple; or whether this came first, and the other afterwards. It matters little however which, as long as it is clear that they all took place.
MAXIMUS. (ut sup.) But the reason why one Evangelist places this event first, and another that, is because vain-glory and covetousness give birth in turn to one another.
ORIGEN. But John, who had commenced his Gospel from God, saying, In the beginning was the Word, did not describe the temptation of the Lord, because God can not be tempted, of whom he wrote. But because in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke the human generations are given, and in Mark it is man who is tempted, therefore Matthew, Luke, and Mark have described the temptation of the Lord.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.
WORD-SUNDAY (3:17) – Larry Broding
Studying God’s Word
Download Scripture Study (PDF)
In this Sunday’s reading, Jesus has just come from being baptized by John the Baptist. It was here that the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him, and God’s voice from heaven identified him as his beloved Son (Luke 3:21 and following). • Immediately after this he was led by the Spirit (Mark 1:12 says he was driven) into the desert to be tempted by Satan. His fasting for 40 days calls to mind many significant Old Testament events that also involved 40 days—Noah in the ark (Genesis 7:12), Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18), and Jonah in Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). • Jesus’ temptation mirrors that of notable Old Testament figures (Adam, Moses, the Israelites in the wilderness) who were also tempted. The difference is that Jesus is successful in resisting, atoning for the failure of those who came before. • Jesus shows that he can empathize with us in that he was subject to temptation just as we are (see Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). He also shows us how to resist the devil.
- Why were the temptations directed at Jesus immediately after he was affirmed by God at his baptism (Luke 3:22)?
- In each temptation, what was its appeal? Its price? How does Jesus resist them? How are the three temptations similar? Different?
- What does it mean to you that all the power and glory of the kingdoms of the world have been given to Satan (verses 5-6. See also John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11)?
- If the devil had three shots at you, what temptations would he use? What resources does God give to help us resist?
- In verse 12, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16. What does it mean to “tempt the Lord, your God”? How is that different from “taking a step out in faith”? What is your own experience in this regard?
- In the First Reading, on the verge of their entry into the Promised Land, Moses reminds the Israelites of all that God has done for them to bring them to this point. How are they to show their gratitude to God once they have taken possession of the land? How do you show gratitude to the Lord for all the good he has done for you? How do you “give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 21:22)?
SOURCE: Sunday Scripture Study by Vince Contreras, Used with Permission
FR. EAMON TOBIN
Sharing God’s Word
Download Commentary (PDF)
- Turn to the person next to you and share what verse in the Gospel caught your attention. The facilitator can decide which is more helpful: to share the next questions with the whole group, or to share in smaller groups of three or four.
- How has your faith in God been tested? What helped you get through your time of testing? In other words, what are or have been deserts in your faith life?
- 3. Deep attachments can and often do get between us and our call to be attached to Jesus. Can you name one attachment that you would like to work on this Lent, e.g., less TV so you can have more quiet time?
- 4. “One does not live on bread alone.” What spiritual practices help to nurture your faith life?
- 5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
SOURCE: Commentaries on the Lectionary by Fr. Eamon Tobin (1947-2021), Used with Permission
Let us now pause to see how something(s) said in the reading might lead us into shared prayer.
“Jesus, give me the courage to name and take on one attachment in my life that hinders me from allowing you to be the center of my life.”
SOURCE: Commentaries on the Lectionary by Fr. Eamon Tobin (1947-2021), Used with Permission
FR. CLEMENT D. THIBODEAU
Echoing God’s Word
Download Reflection (PDF)
1. The Church faces a triple temptation today just as Jesus did in his earthly and human life. Describe the testing to which the Church is put in our American society. What kind of Church do most people in America want? A Church that proclaims the truth of the Gospel, which makes people uncomfortable? So, we are tempted to water down the truth. Give some examples.
2. Can you identify the “wild beasts” and the “angels” that respectively threaten and care for the family (group, parish, community) to which you belong? What are some of the threats to family life that surround us from every side? What forces operating today stand in the way of strong parish life? What are some of the blessings and protections which help families and parishes in our times?
3. Recite the deeds of God in your life as a profession of faith in the Lord. Are you aware that God is present with love even in hardship and misfortune? Share with others how God has been there for you in good times and in bad during your lifetime. Give concrete examples. Just telling the stories of our lives turns out to be a profession of faith because we proclaim how God was there for us all the time.