The Tests of Lent

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 1, 2020 – First Sunday of Lent - Matthew 4:1-11

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Lent is the Church’s season of testing. It begins with Jesus having to survive three tests – which also might be called temptations to do what was wrong. Years ago, I taught in three Catholic universities. During class time, I encouraged students to ask questions if they didn’t understand the mysterious topic I was discussing. I enjoyed this give and take between myself and the students.

But there was one question I never liked, and it came up all the time. “Doctor Thomas, is what you are talking about today going to be on the test?” I knew the attitude that was behind that question. If I said that it wasn’t, the students would put down their pens and fall asleep. If I said it would definitely be on the test, their attention peaked.

Today we hear about three “tests” that Jesus had to pass. We might call them the test about human need, the test about human trust and finally the test about human power.

First, he was tested to turn stones into bread. Afterall, Jesus was hungry after forty days of fasting. The desert land was covered with stones so why not use his power to change them into a quick lunch. Jesus said that’s not how it works. We survive by living in accord to God’s word and not by searching for an easy way around what we are required to do. We must work for the bread that sustains us. That’s how God arranged things for us.

Next, Jesus was tested by being challenged to test God. Jump off this high place and trust that God ‘s angels will catch you before you hit the ground. Again, Jesus holds fast to how he knows things work. Of course, he trusts God, but he doesn’t have to create some crazy stunt to prove that trust.

Finally, perhaps the biggest test of all, the temptation to power. Jesus is taken to a remarkable viewing place from which he can see all the magnificent cities of the world. They all will be his if he only worships Satan. Again, Jesus responds by affirming that only God is in charge. The tempter is a fraud and can only produce empty promises.

These three tests come to us in all kinds of ways. Usually in some form of taking the easy way to meet the challenges that come our way. All of them include an invitation to trust God and to give of ourselves to others who need our help. God gives us the power to do this. Each day we will be tested. In fact, everything will be on the test. So, pay attention.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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