Luke 4: 1-13
1 Inhabited by the Spirit of God, Jesus returned from the Jordan to be led to an uninhabited place by the Spirit and 2 to undergo for forty days the trial of the adverse desires, and he remained fasting all this time, so that in the end he was hungry.
3 One of the adverse desire said, "If God is with you, order this stone to become bread. 4 Jesus replied, "It is written in the Bible, 'The person must not live by bread alone'."
5 Lifting him up to see at a glance all the kingdoms of the universe, 6 another adverse desire says to him, "I will give you all this power and the fame that comes with it, because I control all this and I can dole it out according to my pleasure. 7 And if you become my slave, all these kingdoms are yours". 8 Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written in the Bible, 'You shall make obeisance to the Lord your God, and you will cleave to him only.'"
9 Another adverse desire then takes him to Jerusalem, standing on the top of the Temple, and says to him, "If God is with you, throw yourself down. 10 For it is written in the Bible, He will charge his messengers to protect you, 11 and even: They will lift you up with their hands to prevent your foot from hitting a stone". 12 But Jesus answered him, "The Bible says, Thou shalt not restrain the Lord thy God by forcing him to reveal his presence."
13 After exhausting the ordeals' list, the adverse desires became more discreet before coming back at the right time.
To live is to move forward despite the headwinds
Gospel commentary - Homily
Let me talk a little about myself. When the alarm rings at 5:00, I have a moment of hesitation: should I turn off the bell and continue to sleep, or get up and do the 30 minutes of physical exercise planned. Finally, I get up. After breakfast, it's time to leave the house for work. I hurry to take the bus at the scheduled time.
Now I am sitting on the bus reading an important document, when a person of a certain age gets on the crowded bus. Nobody moves. In one step I get up, designate my seat. Too bad for the important document!
Here I am now at my workplace. It's time to plan my day and review the tasks of the work team. But then someone asks for a meeting to talk about his family problems. This can be a loss of time, since not related to my responsibilities, and therefore will not help me in my career, I thought for a moment. But it's a human being, and did not I say that I'm trying to make the world a little better? So I'll spend an hour listening.
Later on I meet a analyst proudly providing me with his report. Reading this one, I realize the poor quality of the document. How should I react! To say how horrible it is, that he does not know how to work? I decide to put on my coach hat, to ask him many questions about his document and to lead him in discovering all that is missing from his report.
The day moves on. It's time to complete a performance appraisal for an employee. Previous supervisors all said that the employee met the expectations, but I know it was to avoid problems: the obligation to say difficult things, to meet with Human Resources, the Union and their own supervisor. I make a decision: I will tell the truth and deal with the storm, hoping to help the employee deal with the truth and improve the atmosphere in the company.
It's finally time to leave work. I'm being expected at the local pub, because some pals want to have a beer and a slice of pizza, and have a good time. But no, I will go home, because my wife is waiting for me. The meal finished, I think of the newspaper not yet read. But my wife had a difficult day and needs to talk to me. So the newspaper will be for another day, since it's time to go to bed if I want to get up at 5:00 am. That's my day! How many choices did I have to make, do you think? And in our days, how many choices do we make? This is the difficult job of living.
This story may seem far from the Gospel story, but it is not at all. This is what is traditionally called the story of Jesus' temptations. According to the popular perception, Jesus is seen as a hero who repels without hesitation the solicitations of the devil. But we may miss the whole point of the story: Jesus experienced the whole gamut of our temptations, and was therefore required throughout his life to make hundreds of choices, like me, like us. Let's take a closer look.
Jesus has just experienced the shock of a religious experience during his baptism in the Jordan. He discovered that he is loved in a unique way by God, that he has a special mission. Then he feels the need to isolate himself to take stock. The Gospel speaks of forty days fasting in the desert. The fast is explained in a context of preparation for a mission, the number forty expresses in Antiquity the time necessary for the maturation of life and the desert refers to what had to live the Jewish people when they have left Egypt for the promised land, their temptations to turn back, their doubts in their faith in Moses and God. In his own way, Jesus experienced all this.
First of all, the word "devil" for the Greeks represents this stick that is put in the wheels to stop the charriot. It represents the desires that are leading us astray, the obstacles to a mission, and that is why I prefer to translate the word by "adverse desire".
The three temptations can be summarized as follows: if you truly are a man inhabited by God, your prayer should be focused on your essential physical needs; admit your need to be important, and therefore give in completely to your desire to control everything and to be famous; finally, ask God to be like Him and escape from suffering and death.
We know the answer of the Old Testament-based Gospel: the human being needs more than bread, he needs to love and be loved, and he needs to search for the ultimate meaning of life ; God alone is an absolute, and therefore the human being must remain free from everything that is left; we can not control God and ask him that we avoid being human, especially to face our death.
All the choices of Jesus were in this sense. He exeperienced our own life. The good news ! The strength he has developed through his many choices, he makes it available today so that the difficult job of living gives birth to the renewed human being. The secret ? All we have to do is open ourselves to the Spirit who is already speaking deep inside us.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 2009