Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Eve and Adam eat from the tree that was forbidden to them by God.
A prayer for mercy
Through the obedience of Jesus, many will be made righteous. (shorter form: Romans 5:12,17-19)
Jesus fasts for 40 days in the desert and is tempted by the devil.
Gospel MT 4:1-11
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
Background on the Gospel Reading
In each of the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), after Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus is reported to have gone to the desert to fast and pray for 40 days. In each case, while in the desert, Jesus is tempted by the devil.
Matthew and Luke give more detail than Mark does, but each one tells how the devil tempts Jesus in the desert. In Matthew, as in Luke, the devil presents three temptations to Jesus. The devil tempts Jesus to use his power to appease his hunger; he tempts Jesus to put God’s promise of protection to the test; and he offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship the devil. In each case, Jesus resists the temptation, rebuking the devil with words from Scripture.
The account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is filled with allusions and parallels to the Old Testament, including the story of the people of Israel. The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the desert in Exodus, for example, and Jesus spends 40 days in the desert. As the Israelites were tempted during the Exodus, so too is Jesus tempted.
Each temptation offers insight into both God and the human condition. Jesus’ rejection of the temptations shows that he will not put God to the test. Grounding himself on the word and authority of Scripture, Jesus rebukes the devil, confident in God’s protection and faithfulness.
As we start our journey through Lent, our Sunday readings call us to adopt the same confidence that Jesus had in the face of temptation: God’s word alone will suffice; God’s promise of protection can be trusted; God alone is God.
When Jesus resists the temptations presented to him by the devil, he draws on his religious upbringing and tradition. Jesus is able to quote from Scripture because he is the Son of God and because he was a human person who lived his Jewish beliefs fully. We who are responsible for raising children are also called upon to immerse them fully in our Catholic Christian tradition so that they too will be able to draw upon this tradition to resist the temptations they will face in their lives.
Use this Sunday as an opportunity to call your family’s attention to the importance of Scripture in our lives. Gather your family around the family Bible and read today’s Gospel, Matthew 4:1-11. Recall that Jesus rebuked the devil’s temptations by quoting Scripture. Take some time as a family to talk about the words that are found in the Bible and the importance of Scripture to our faith. Perhaps the older members of the family can share a favorite Scripture passage with everyone. Younger family members can tell their favorite story from the Bible and be shown where that story can be found. In each case, encourage a deeper sharing of faith by asking each person to tell why the Scripture passage shared is important to him or her. Conclude your time together by again reading Jesus’ reply to the devil found in Matthew 4:4 (“One does not live by bread alone . . .”) and praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings