Temptation as Teacher
10 March 2019 – First Sunday in Lent
It is instructive that Jesus is tempted by appetite, power, and hubris for these are temptations which many of us find attractive. In each case, Jesus defeats the temptation with a reminder (self-reminder?) that he comes to serve the reign of God. The person lives not by bread alone, but by the Word and Wisdom of God. The glory of the person is the worship of God and not the worship of power. The identity of the person (as child of God) is not confirmed by astonishing deeds, but by a humble daily walk toward the Cross.
In the case of each temptation, the problem is not the bread, or the glory, or the miracle. The problem is in the seeking of the bread, the glory, or the miracle more than reign of God.
. . . We might consider our own “temptations” and how they represent an occasion to delay God’s power and dominion in our lives. Appetite or hunger in itself is not the problem. . . Power in itself is not the problem. . . Miracles and astonishing feats are not the problem, but when they distract us from the underlying, daily persistence of God’s Kingdom (hidden in plain sight), they are a problem. All these things and many others. . . trip us up on our spiritual pilgrimage. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt
According to Gerhard von Rad, this reading contains one of the oldest oral traditions of the Pentateuch: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor . . .” (vv 5–10). In a small kernel the central core of the Torah is recounted: the election of Abram, the sojourn in Egypt, deliverance to Canaan, a “land of milk and honey.”
. . . All that is essential for Israelite faith is found here: a personal relationship between the man and his God; the promise of the Land and the election of Israel to be God’s own people, the deliverance from oppression, and the commandment to use one’s sacrifices and offerings in order to celebrate with all people, Israelite and foreigner alike (v 11).
. . . This original sacrifice is focused on thankfulness, blessing the Lord, rejoicing in abundance, and a nearly profligate sharing with all of one’s neighbors.
–– Jeffrey VanderWilt
Paul continues along the lines of contrasting the belief and practices of Israel to the belief and practices of the Christian. . . . These deeds, the ones we really need in order to be saved, cannot be performed by the merely human. Rather, Paul writes, we need only believe and have faith in Christ who has done these things on our behalf. He did them, not because he observed the Law in its entirety, but because he was himself the Word on which that Law is premised.
. . . The Law’s own primordial organizing principle (the Word) indwells the person in intimacy such that the observance of Law is effortless since everything that one does and desires now—following this transfer into the community of the saved—has the Love of God and neighbor as its singular aim. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt
Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.
Homily Service 40, no. 3 (2007): 54-64.