Readings and Reflection for March 6 (First Sunday of Lent)

Assumption University

A Delightful Lenten Journey

New humanity

Luke’s account of the temptation is very close to that of Matthew. With a personal touch and in a more precise way than Mark, Luke presents Jesus as a new Adam. Different from Matthew who begins Jesus’ genealogy with Abraham to highlight Jesus’ bonds with the people of Israel, Luke traces it back to Adam in order to identify Jesus with all humanity. After describing the baptism where Jesus is presented as the beloved Son of God, Luke introduces Jesus’ genealogy to emphasize the origin of the Son of Man. By doing so, he risks destroying the link between the baptism and the temptation, which we find in Matthew and Mark. That is why in his temptation account, Luke makes the effort to recall that “Jesus returned from the Jordan” where John baptized many people, Jesus included.
Notice that the link between the end of the genealogy and the beginning of the temptation narrative is striking: “…son of Adam, son of God… Jesus.” The one who is tempted by the devil is not only the Son of God, but also the Son of Man. The devil tried to lure Jesus into his trap by focusing on Jesus’ status as the Son of God. For his part, Jesus defeated all the devil’s plans precisely by showing that he was truly a human being. For example, in the first temptation, when the devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread,” Jesus replied to him from a human perspective: “One does not live on bread alone.” By overcoming each of the temptations, Jesus sets a new path for humanity, a humanity wounded by the sin of the first man. Thus, with Jesus, a new humanity is about to start.

No matter how

Matthew described the setting of Jesus’ temptation in a geographic order: the desert, Jerusalem and the entire world. By doing so, he established a parallel between Jesus’ temptation and that of the people of Israel. In his humanity, the Son of God relived the three temptations that the people of Israel experienced in the past: bread (search for material goods), the parapet of the temple (testing God) and the kingdoms of the world (compromise with evil). By totally assuming his human condition, Jesus succeeded where the people of Israel failed.
For his part, Luke preferred to present Jesus’ temptation in contrast to that of Adam. He switched the second temptation with the third one making the last temptation (testing God) the most important because it took place in Jerusalem. In Luke, in the second temptation, Satan presented himself as a sovereign of humanity: power and glory had been handed over to him. That reminds us of Adam’s dominion over all things (Gn 1:28). Instead of dominating the earth under God’s protection, Adam chose to assume this function under Satan’s seduction. By overcoming this temptation of domination, Jesus undid the consequences caused by the sin committed by the first man. He set a new example for all human beings who are still motivated by the desire of domination over all the world at whatever price.

No matter what

Since there is no spectator, what is at stake in the third temptation is not the request for an ostentatious performance. Rather, Satan tries to plant seeds of doubt in Jesus regarding the divine protection. In his reasoning, Satan gives Jesus to understand that if he were the Son of God, he would be protected by the angels, God’s messengers. This kind of thought process reminds us of the suggestion that the serpent made to Eve in the garden of Eden. There, the serpent planted in her the same doubt by asking her, “Did God really say…?” (Gn 3:1). It also reassured her: “You certainly will not die!” (3:4) Here, Satan talks to Jesus about the same reassurance by referring to the angels’ protection: “With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” In contrast to Eve, however, Jesus does not fall into the trap.
It is noteworthy that, unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke did not mention the service rendered to Jesus by the angels. This omission becomes more evident if we look at Matthew’s account where the departure of the devil and the entrance of the angels formed a symmetrical movement: “Then the devil left him and behold, angels came and ministered to him” (4:11). By omitting the presence of the angels, Luke showed that Jesus did not need any supernatural help. He completed the human pilgrimage all the way. He was truly a human being.

No matter who

When the devil failed in every temptation, he departed from Jesus “for a time.” This departure is not definitive. The devil will indeed come back at Jesus’ Passion. He will lead Judas to betray Jesus (22:3). He will sift Peter and all the disciples like wheat (22:31). He will be in the background of Jesus’ arrest because at that moment Jesus said to those who sought to arrest him: “Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” (22:53) The hour will come. The power of darkness will burst forth. That is why Jesus’ victory over the devil’s temptations is just an initial success.
What happened to Jesus will happen to every human being. The one who tempted Jesus will lure every human being into his trap. Satan will come back to every human being at the “appointed time.” He will come back to lead us to do evil. He will come back to drive us to betray one another. He will come back to urge us to use violence against violence in order to lock us into a vicious circle. He will come back to encourage us to condemn innocent people. He will come back to turn us away from our respect for the dignity of the person. He will come back to urge us to remove our respect for difference. He will come back to make us comfortable in our injustice and inequality. And yet we need to remember that evil, suffering, injustice, violence and division are not the last words of our human existence. Being truly human, Jesus conquered all human flaws by crucifying them on the cross. What was destroyed by his very life cannot win the final victory over human life.
With Jesus, we are to continue our human pilgrimage all the way. Many obstacles and trials are waiting for us. But if we trust Jesus and follow in his footsteps, he will help us to overcome our difficulties. Jesus became a human being so that every human being can become God. To commit ourselves to the process of divinization, we need to assume our humanity to the end. Humanization is therefore a prerequisite for divinization.

Prayer: Creator God, help us to become more human by adopting your Son’s way of being.

Resolution: Improve my human qualities to become more and more daughter or son of God.