– 26-02-2023 –
Gospel text : Matthew 4:1-11
vs.1 Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
vs.2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry,
vs.3 and the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.”
vs.4 But he replied,
“Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
vs.5 The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple.
vs.6 “If you are the Son of God” he said “throw yourself down; for scripture says: He will put you in his angels’ charge, and they will support you on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.”
vs.7 Jesus said to him,
“Scripture also says: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”
vs.8 Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.
vs.9 “I will give you all these” he said, “if you fall at my feet and worship me.”
vs.10 Then Jesus replied,
“Be off, Satan! For scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”
vs 11 The devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from.
Michel DeVerteuil : A Holy Ghost Priest, Specialist in Lectio Divina
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Hist. Theol. Univ of Nottingham
John Littleton: Director of the Priory Institute, Tallaght, D.24
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger *******************************************************
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
Like all who see their lives as a grateful response to God’s call, Jesus must make the basic choice to trust God, whatever the circumstances he finds himself in. In this story, under very great pressure, Jesus makes his choice. Who does he remind you of at this moment of decision?
The story is told as a journey in three stages:
Verse 1: Identify the wilderness into which you – or someone you know, or your community – have been led by the Spirit. Note that it is the Spirit – God’s love – who leads him there. What does that say about true love? Deuteronomy 8:1-5 will help you to answer this question. Ask yourself also, do we sometimes go into the wilderness but not led there by the Spirit? What happens then?
Verses 3 – 10: The three temptations are three aspects of the one temptation not to trust God, or (stated in positive terms) to follow the way of achievement rather than that of trust. Repeat Jesus’ three responses to yourself many times until you can identify with them. From that perspective you will understand the temptations. Thank God for the great people who continue to respond like Jesus. How is Satan tempting them? How is Satan tempting the Church?
Verse 11: This is the moment when an individual (or a community) who has remained faithful through a long temptation experiences the love and care of God for that person (or cause) to whom he or she has been faithful. Who are the angels God sends to look after his faithful ones?
“Walk the dark ways of faith and you will attain the vision of God.” … St Augustine
Lord, it is risky to let ourselves be led by the Spirit.
So often he leads us into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
We make an act of trust in you today, letting ourselves be guided by you,
confident that the devil will eventually leave us and angels will appear to look after us.
Lord, sometimes we go into the wilderness because we are hurt or angry or resentful of others.
Teach us that we are only safe in the wilderness if the Spirit leads us there.
“Understanding can follow only where experience leads.“ …St Bernard
We pray for parents and all those who guide others;
help them to be like you:
– not to be over-protective;
– to let their sons and daughters be led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
because it is only there that they will experience angels appearing
and looking after them.
“In prison you learn the value of self-discipline, you stand outside of yourself and see your weaknesses.”… Nelson Mandela
Lord, we think of all those who are in the wilderness at this moment, those who have been there forty days and forty nights
without eating and are very hungry – hungry for love, for security, for recognition, for ordinary food.
The tempter has certainly come
and said to them that they can turn the stones before them into loaves.
We pray that they may reply in the words of Scripture, that we do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from your mouth.
We pray for the youth of today.
They see the kingdoms of the world and their splendour;
but to be given all these they must fall at the feet of the devil and worship him.
We pray that they may repeat the words of scripture worshipping you Lord, their God, and serving you alone.
“The heart of the Christian message is that the most salvific moment in the history of the world was when one man was pinned to a cross, unable to do anything for anyone about anything.” …Thomas Cullinane, Benedictine monk
Lord, our Church community has been led by the Spirit into the wilderness, the wilderness of falling numbers, of failure, of uncertainty, of criticism.
We remember that the Spirit always leads your people into the wilderness
to be tempted by the devil.
Help us to refuse the easy solutions,
– to turn stones into bread,
– to throw ourselves from the parapet of the temple in order to prove that you
will support us on your hands in case we hurt our feet against a stone
– to fall at the devil’s feet and worship him.
We renew our trust in you, confident
– that we can live on every word that comes from your mouth;
– that we need not put you to the test;
– that we worship you as our God and serve you alone.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
A Note to Remember
For many people, today, rather than Ash Wednesday, is their first encounter with the season of Lent. It is therefore worthwhile presenting today as the introduction to the whole season. However, the difficulty is that ‘Lent’ must not be presented as a season on its own, possibly with Easter as sequel; rather it has to be seen as a stage in the ‘An annual season of renewal, the celebration of death of the old person — resurrection to new life, that is central to the whole time between Lent’s beginning and Pentecost as a process.
Introduction to the Celebration
We are the people who have been baptised into Christ and share in his new life. But we are also a people still in need of repentance and renewal. Today we begin a season that leads us through Christ’s death to his resurrection and onwards to our celebration of the Spirit dwelling within us at Pentecost. Today we begin a season of renewal in that new life, we start to take stock of the state of our discipleship as individuals and as a people. During the coming weeks we will focus on the core of our faith and our dedication to building the new kingdom announced by Jesus.
1. We speak much about ‘discipleship’ and about ‘being disciples’; we also speak about the’ discipline of Lent: but rarely do we link discipleship with discipline, fixed training regimes, and building up skills through practice. In our culture discipline belongs to dieting, skills training belongs to sporting activities, and warm feelings belong to religious discipleship. Earlier Christians took a far more practical approach to living a Christian life and discipleship: it required disciplined training, skills acquisition, mentoring by more experienced members of the community (surviving vestigially in ‘God parents‘), regular practice, and periodic renewal and servicing. Here lies one of the origins of Lent and it became linked to preparing for baptism since the prospective members of the community had to have learned the basic skills.
2. From the outset, three skills were seen as essential.
First, the ability to pray: both alone and in a willingness to take part in the liturgy. One cannot be a Christian without prayer, nor call yourself one unless you gather with the Christians for prayer.
3. Second, a Christian must have the ability to fast. Fasting is a private and a public act. Private in that it touches one personally and makes one conscious of what one is about, literally in the pit of the stomach. This is felt religion, not an engagement with warm abstractions. Fasting is also communal in that it is done at fixed times of the week and year, and when one fasts as a part of a group, one identifies with them by sharing their practice. Then one is not acting alone, but it is the whole group that is imploring heaven collectively for their needs by fasting. Fasting without the dimension of prayer is simply dieting; prayer without fasting (or some other collective activity that ‘touches’ us), may be little more than repetitive sounds.
4. Third, giving to the poor (almsgiving) is a basic Christian activity, and any notion that Christian belief can be separated from care for justice and development would involve imagining Christianity as a philosophical system and divorce it from its roots – although this is a way of viewing Christian belief that is today quite common. Early Christians assumed that it was no use thanking God for his gifts and asking for his mercy, unless they were prepared to divert their gifts, resources, and mercy to the poor. To acknowledge God as our creator implies a care for all in need. And to acknowledge need and not do something about it is hypocrisy. Now that we have a global consciousness (just turn on the radio and listen to the news: details from every place on the planet where something bad, good, or interesting has happened over the last 12 hours), our almsgiving must have a global reach, hence the importance during Lent of thinking about world poverty, supporting development agencies, and taking some action to remove injustice: this is not a parallel activity to Lent, but part of its core. But remember, prayer and fasting without care for the poor turns faith into a private affair or a ‘holy huddle’, but almsgiving without prayer and fasting while noble, also fails to acknowledge the larger mystery that envelops all creation.
5. Lent is a time for polishing up basic Christian skills:
Prayer: on one’s own and with the group;
Fasting: practising simplicity of lifestyle with the group;
Almsgiving: making with other Christians a real contribution to making the world a better place for all God’s children.
Journeying through the Year of Matthew
Being Christians, we are part of the covenant people. We belong to the people whom God has chosen as his own people and with whom he established a covenant relationship.
A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties. It is an alliance or partnership between them and it involves a commitment from each of the participating parties to be faithful to the agreement that they made when beginning their special relationship. In the Old Testament, the Chosen People were the Jews.
Later, Jesus — himself a Jew — developed the covenant relationship by establishing a new means of conducting our relationship with God through the Church which, according to the paragraph 877 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is ‘the new Israel’.
Therefore, as people in the covenant relationship with God, we are unique. Not only in the sense of being privileged due to our membership of the Church, but also in the sense of having serious obligations. In that relationship, God promises to be our God and we, in turn, promise to be his people. These promises are binding forever and faithfulness is necessary.
The covenant relationship requires obedience from us. In return, God will reward us with great graces and, ultimately, with heaven. There is an example of this in the account of Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (see Mt 4:1-11). Even after fasting for forty days, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations and succeeded in sending him away. By remaining faithful to his Father’s will, Jesus taught that if we resist temptation we will not become slaves to sin.
As with Jesus during his temptations in the wilderness, God the Father has never been, and could not be, unfaithful to his promise to be our God at all times and in all places. God does not change and his promise is irrevocable. Throughout human history, however, God’s chosen people were often unfaithful to the covenant and it has needed renewal by them. Thus the covenant relationship was always cyclical with repeating cycles of fidelity, sin, punishment and reconciliation.
In the Hebrew scriptures we read that the covenant was renewed several times after the people had been disloyal and had abandoned living in accordance with God’s commandments. The renewal was expressed in various signs and rituals. For example, the sign of the covenant that God made with Noah was the rainbow. Similarly, the sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham (that his descendants would be as many as the stars) was male circumcision. The sign of the covenant that God made with Moses on Mount Sinai was the Ten Commandments.
Subsequently, in the New Testament we read that the new and eternal covenant between God and his Chosen People was sealed by the blood of Christ in his suffering and death. The sign of this covenant is ritualised in the sacrament of baptism. In baptism we die with Christ and rise to new life with him. Living the baptised life authentically, as evidenced by our faithfulness to God’s commandments, is the proof that we are taking the covenant seriously. Central to the covenant relationship is a continual turning towards God and turning away from sin, which is what damages and breaks the covenant.
During Lent, through prayer, fasting and charitable works, we renew our covenant relationship with God. We are called to undergo conversion through repentance for our sins so that we will be ready to appreciate the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter. The ritual sign of renewing our baptismal commitment is celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. Lent is a particularly appropriate time for us to go to confession and, in the spirit of true repentance, to be assured that our sins are forgiven.
The message of Lent is summarised in the words spoken to us on Ash Wednesday when the sign of the cross is traced on our foreheads with the blessed ashes: Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel. Now is the time to begin the process of conversion so that our commitment to God may become as unbreakable as his commitment to us.
Jesus was led by the Spirit to the wilderness and tempted by the devil.(Mt 4:1)
Donal Neary SJ:
Gospel Reflections for Sundays of Year A: Matthew
Jesus is tempted to use creation just for himself. This can happen with money, to other people, the environment and religion. We are called to look after God’s creation, not control it.
To be co-workers with God is our call – to focus on people as well as plans, to feel the needs here and abroad.
One view of God is that he looks after the world for good or bad, and we are just the receivers. The other is that we are co-workers in developing the world and God’s creation. Jesus was tempted to throw himself away from the world as he knew it, but he did not. He would live by the word of God, and God would care for him as for the parents in the first reading.
‘A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, or who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us’ (Pope Francis, 2015).
The temptation to Jesus was to take him off the path of his father. Like him, we are often tempted to use the creation of God just for our benefit. Our call is to be co-creators of the world with God.
Imagine a garden where everything is beautiful. It is the ‘creation’ of a gardener. Then imagine that someone has ruined one corner of it
– notice the difference. Apply this to how we treat God’s creation.
May we care for your creation, O Lord,
with the love you have for creation and for us.