THE TEMPTATION OF AN ILLUSORY HAPPINESS – 5th March 2020, 1st Sunday Of Lent

– MATTHEW 4:1-11

Jesus’ answers to the tempter refer to three events of the Exodus: the murmurings of the people for the lack of food and the gift of the manna (Ex 16), the protests for the lack of water (Ex 17), the idolatry represented by the golden calf (Ex 32). Jesus, therefore, relives the history of his people. He is subject to the same temptations and overcomes them.

 The first: “Order these stones to turn into bread” (vv. 1-4).

The seduction of the goods of this world is almost unstoppable. It is difficult to settle for the “daily bread,” to allow everyone to have enough to live on.

“One does not live on bread alone, but also from everything that comes from the mouth of God” (Dt 8:3).

The goods of this world are not to be despised, destroyed, rejected, but they should not be considered idols. They are fleeting and transient creatures, not absolute reality.

 The selfish use of accumulated wealth for oneself, living by the work of others, squandering in luxury and superfluity, while others lack the necessary things, are behaviors dictated by the evil one.

The second temptation: “Throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple” (vv. 5-7).

The ultimate goal of evil is not to cause some moral subsidence, fragility, weakness, but to undermine the relationship with God. This is achieved when, in people’s mind, doubt that the Lord does not keep his promises, misses on his word, ensures his protection but, at crucial moments, abandons who trusted him, creeps in. 

The need “to demand proofs” arises from this doubt. In the desert, the people of Israel, exhausted by thirst, succumbed to this temptation, and exclaimed: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex 17:7).

 The third temptation: “All this I will give you if you kneel down and worship me” (vv. 8-11). It is the temptation of power, of domination over others.

The choice is between to master and to serve, to compete and to become supportive. One can also use one’s abilities and talents to humiliate those who are less gifted. Those who have power and are rich can serve the poorest and most disadvantaged but can lord it over them. 

The greed for power is so overwhelming that even those who are poor are tempted to overpower those weaker than them. 

Where dominion is exercised over persons, where people struggle to prevail over others, where someone is forced to kneel or bow down in front of another person, the logic of evil is at work there.