‘You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone’
First Sunday of Lent (Year C)
Jesus’ encounter with the devil mirrors what his ministry is all about – to overcome evil with goodness is the constant challenge of the gospel. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
1 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, 2 being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. 3 Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ 4 But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’
5 Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world 6 and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. 7 Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ 8 But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’
9 Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him, ‘throw yourself down from here, 10 for Scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you, 11 and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’ 12 But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’ 13 Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.
Other readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10 Psalm 90 (91) Romans 10:8-13
It is an ancient tradition that we read the gospel of the temptation of Jesus on the first Sunday of Lent. There is the obvious connection that Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness, but there are deeper reasons. In each of the synoptic gospels we are told how, before his ministry begins, Jesus, filled with the Spirit, encounters the spirit of evil. It is what his ministry is all about. It is what our lives are all about. To overcome evil with goodness is the constant challenge of the gospel.
In the longer narratives in Matthew and Luke we are given what amounts to a profound reflection on the nature of temptation. To use God-given powers for selfish ends is a temptation rife in our modern times. To worship the source of evil recalls our modern confusion about what is morally good and morally bad. To put God to the test is similarly familiar. Jesus withstands each of these tests. Our gospel ends with the departure of the devil ‘to return at the appointed time’. Luke knows that the critical time will come at Calvary.
Which temptations are present in my life and how should I withstand them?
Do I share the moral confusion of the present time?
Let us pray for honesty in order to change our attitudes and our behaviour.
Let us pray for the strength of God’s Spirit to put our lives to right this Lent.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy