According to the Gospels, the temptations experienced by Jesus aren’t exactly of the moral order. They are expositions in which are proposed false ways of understanding and living out one’s mission. That’s why one’s reaction serves as a model of our moral position, but above all it warns not to stray from the mission that Jesus has left his followers.
To start with, his temptations help us to identify more clearly and responsibly the temptations that his Church and we her members may be experiencing today. How will we be a Church that is faithful to Jesus if we aren’t conscious of the most dangerous temptations that can today lead us astray from his project and his way of living?
In the first temptation, Jesus renounces the utilization of God to «change» rocks into bread and thus assuage his hunger. He won’t take that path. He won’t go about seeking his own interest. He won’t use the Father selfishly. He will feed on God’s living Word, and only «multiply» bread in order to feed the peoples’ hunger.
This is probably the most serious temptation for Christians in developed countries: use religion to fulfill our material wellbeing, tranquilizing our consciences and emptying our Christianity of compassion, being deaf to God’s voice that keeps crying out «Where are your brothers and sisters?».
In the second temptation, Jesus renounces getting «power and glory» based on bowing down, like all the powers-that-be, to the abuses, lies and injustices that are inspired by the power of the «devil». God’s Reign doesn’t impose: it lovingly offers itself. We only will adore the God of the poor, the weak and the defenseless.
In these times of losing social power, it’s tempting for the Church to try to recover the «power and the glory» of times past, toying even with an absolute power over society. We are losing an historic opportunity to enter on a new path of humble service and of fraternal accompaniment of today’s men and women, who are so in need of love and hope.
In the third temptation, Jesus renounces fulfilling his mission by running to easy success and showmanship. He won’t be a triumphal Messiah. He will never put God to the service of vainglory. He will be among his own as one who serves.
It will always be tempting for some to use religion to seek fame, renown and prestige. There are few things more ridiculous for those who follow Jesus than ostentation and the seeking of honors. These damage the Church and leave her empty of truth.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf