First Sunday of Lent, Year A

Posted on March 2, 2023 View all Gospel Reflection

“One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4

Certainly, Satan would retort, “Can’t you just feed people without theological comment? Why do you have to preach? Just feed hungry people!”

The devil’s theology aims at speedy and sensational results. Evil-energy is speedy and sensational. Waiting, enduring and hoping are not part of the devil’s toolbox.

One cannot live on bread alone because faith interprets life’s essentials like food and faith illuminates what we have and what we share so that we are not just food delivery people, but minister material support in the Name of the Lord so that not just bodily hunger may be satisfied but also human hunger.

[Source: Not by bread alone: how does Jesus free and unite us? By Kōsuke Koyama, Ecumenical Review, 27 no 3 Jul 1975, p 201-211.

C.S. Lewis made an astute observation in his masterful Screwtape Letters: the devil cannot manufacture real goods or pleasures; he’s stuck with the ones God has made and for which our natures have an inclination.  So what the devil does is not to present a false good as a temptation, but rather a true good in the wrong order or circumstance.

E.g. he can only tempt you by looking at the past, present or future to misuse a good, or twist a scenario in your mind so that you sin by misusing what God made objectively good.

The devil tempted Eve with the good of knowledge, which was a real good, but Satan twisted it and presented it as something that Eve could grab on her own. Consequently, the knowledge of good and evil now inclines one to sinfully exercise independent judgement between right and wrong apart from God’s law and will.

E.g. In the wedding vows, the various options include such phrases as “to have and to hold;” “to be faithful,” and, among Anglican’s/Episcopalians who become Catholic, their wedding vows include, “forsaking all others.”

In any vocation, there will be goods to give up. Jesus gave up everything when he became one of us.  You married Harold not Darwin. To be a priest, you forsake many goods like marriage and family. To be a soldier, you put off many goods while on deployment.

So in order not to fall into the trap of “what you resist, persists” –when tempted, acknowledge that, at the bottom, after all the disguises and smoke and mirrors of Satan that a real good exists, but that good is just not for you as per God’s clear commands.

Regarding the tactics of the devil, note that “desire” is the reason for the woman seeing and taking the fruit. Similarly, in Genesis 12:14-15, the Egyptians “see” how beautiful Sarah is, so she is “taken” to Pharaoh’s palace. David saw Bathsheba and took her. The Dead Sea Scrolls mention the desire of the wicked who want to take.

Source: Before Human Sin and Evil: Desire and Fear in the Garden of God by Mark Smith, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 80 no 2 Apr 2018, p 225.

Temptation is a conflict of desire (cf. 1 John 2:16).

Fear is the first human emotion after the fall, then shame.

Then often blaming, which is false attribution, and is a form of denial–Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake.

Note that there were other trees in the garden “that were [also] delightful to look at and good for food.”

Take stock of all the blessings the Lord has given you. Adam and Eve had everything. So many goods they could enjoy in peace and joy.