Morsels From The Refectory
Jesus spend his “quarantine” — 40 days in the desert — to emerge, eventually, “wholesomely” as man: because He did not put himself in God’s place (by commanding stone to become bread (Luke 4:3), nor by jumping off the temple parapet to be caught by angels (Luke 4:9)) nor did He lower himself to the level of the devil (by prostrating himself before him to have “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5)). This “quarantine” of Jesus cast one’s mind back to the 40 years of the people of Israel in the desert, “to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Because temptations are the tests that happen through the unpredictability of life. In these tests you can give in to the temptations of evil that crosses the heart. Yet, in them, one can, on the contrary, guard one’s being, humankind: in other words, beings that are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore made for good and not for evil.
The first temptation is the trial of the desert and its harshness, like that of stones. The desert is an absence of life and the basic elements required for survival. In our journey, it may happen that reality comes across as fruitless and unproductive, so much as to call life itself into question. This occurs in the face of defeats, disappointments, wounds that we find ourselves suffering.
Jesus responds to this temptation with the words of Scripture: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Above all, he recognises himself as “man”. He accepts his human condition in total cordiality, not seeing it denied in the aridity and harshness of life. You can also live among the stones, without having to become bread to find yourself. Because the true essential, the word that comes from the mouth of God, his positive relationship with us, will never be removed. Jesus also knew how to integrate his defeats into his relationship with the Father. Like when he thanked him for choosing the way of the “little ones” for him, and not that of the “wise and learned”, when his ministry of announcing the Kingdom in Galilee ended in substantial failure: only those who were rejected followed him.
The second temptation is that of the lack of recognition of God. Putting him to the test by asking him for a striking sign is an evident demonstration of the inability or unwillingness to open up a space of authentic relationship in one’s life. What we have instead today is: that God no longer belongs to the essential, nor even to the optional. Particularly among the younger and newer generations, God has been relegated to a obscure corner with indifference; in view of the fact that the previous generation, their parents and grandparents have failed to transmit the faith to the newer (but this has also failed within educational and governmental contexts).
Jesus moreover responds to this second temptation by quoting Scripture; whom, with this case in point, warns us “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Matthew 4:7), much the same Israelites during their Exodus in the desert had done, whom, looking ahead and glimpsing nothing but aridity, questioned Moses: “Will God give us water so that we can survive?”. Concern, morbidity and anxious attention toward one’s own wellbeing, scaremongering, defeatism transforms (the inevitable) uncertainty in certain situations of life into rebelliousness towards others, against destiny, against the consequences of such situations, against God Himself! You must, however, avoid unburdening your personal proof that you are alive on something else. Jesus did just that: tempted to fail, faced with the trials of the passion that He was about to suffer, He asks the Father to give Him the strength to be Himself with His dignity and strength, which is exactly what men wanted to deny Him of and take away from Him through trials, tribulation, ridicule, torture and crucifixion. He never pointed an accusatory finger at His executioners in fact he pitied them and asked for them to be forgiven, He never called to God pleading to be spared for He knew he had to give Himself as a sacrifice for the atonement of humanity, He never summoned the multitude of angels to rescue Him, nor did he entreat his disciples to come to His defense. Instead with His hands He washed the feet of the lowliest of men, even of Judas in the knowledge that he would imminently betray him. This is the sign of unconditional love, this is true heroism. As an ex military man I consider “true Heroism” expressed by: putting others before yourself, even at the peril of your own life. It is most definitely not defined by the act of scoring three goals at an international final.
The third temptation is the realisation and loss of one’s equilibrium when faced by the magnitude and depression of one’s disillusionment. In youth one has a healthy drive to do something meaningful with your life: these are your dreams. Making use and putting the best of yourself, your energies into all that lies ahead. But sometimes this can cause us to fall into small delusions of grandeur or even cause bitterness or change of heart, in the face of adversities. Then one become a person who gives up easily or does not have the courage or determination to finish a task, becomes a person who lacks consideration for other people and withdrawn within a small world turned in on itself. We can no longer relate to others on the basis of one’s own abilities, nor can we deny a positive (divine) force that pushes the world forward, only because we have become cynical and shut ourselves away in resentment.
Instead, we need to adopt freedom, like that of Jesus, to welcome rather than conquering others. He knew how to turn every encounter and every situation into an opportunity for learning from the Father and from life. His answer was “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve” this is the unambiguous condemnation within the Scripture addresses to the people of Israel who considered the earth no longer a gift from God, but a conquest within their grasp. We are called to recognise the gifts of life and of the Lord every day: they are gifts, not conquests. In them we recognise and live the beauty and preciousness of being human persons. We are called to recognise the gifts of life and of the Lord every day: they are gifts, not conquests. In them we recognise and live the beauty and preciousness of being a part of humanity. Therefore, human trials and adversity should make us ascend, develop and grow, instead of leading us toward evil.
At this time I would like to convey my prayers and blessings to you all and humbly ask for yours in return.
Mercifully look upon our weakness, O almighty God; since the weight of our own evil deeds bears us down, may the glorious intercession of Thy blessed martyr Sebastian be our protection at this time of pestilence; Through Thy Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who with Thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. ℟. Amen.