Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. Lent means “spring time” referring to the long days. We have forty days in the season of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday excluding the six Sundays leading to the Easter Sunday. Lent is a time given for us to know the person of Jesus Christ, to encounter His mystery more deeply through fasting, prayer and penance. Lent can be seen in two ways: Either as a time of burden in which one has to practice fasting and abstinence, or it can be seen as a time of grace and renewal in one’s own life and of one’s family.
Lent begins with a reflection on the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness praying and fasting. Forty is a very significant number as we go through the history of the people of God. The deluge in Noah’s time lasted forty days (Genesis 7:17). Forty days Moses spent on the mountain with God (Ex. 34:28). Forty days prophet Elijah traveled in the wilderness (II Kg. 19:8). The children of Israel were tried for forty years (Psalm 95:10) and Moses and Elijah fasted forty days.
God never puts anyone to test. “Never, when you are being put to test, say, ‘God is tempting me; God cannot be tempted by evil, and he does not put anybody to the test.” (James 1:13). Jesus had to face three types of temptations. By those temptations, Satan was trying to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling His ministry entrusted to him by the Father. The devil was trying to entice Jesus away from the accomplishment of his mission, to avoid the struggles and sufferings which he should undergo and instead become the political messiah of Jewish expectation.
The temptations of Jesus are prototypes of Satan’s work in a Christian’s life.
The first temptation of Jesus was to turn the stone into a loaf. The basic urge of any human being to satisfy
hunger is made use of by the tempter to lure Jesus. Though God provided manna for the Israelites in the desert, some of them failed to trust God for their sustenance. Some of them collected more and stored it for tomorrow despite the order to collect only for the day’s need (Exodus 16: 19-20). Where the people of Israel yielded, Jesus resisted and overcame the temptation. Fasting increases our resistance to temptations, we grow healthier in soul and body and we become aware of our blessings and learn to love the poor and hungry by being charitable towards them.
The second temptation of Jesus was to gain the political power by submitting to the devils’ authority. The people of Israel were tempted and they worshipped false gods (Exodus 32:4). Jesus relied on the Word of God and resisted the temptation. This temptation points to our subtle attraction to whatever is attractive, though it is wrong; step by step and day by day we will be led to Satan’s dominance.
In the third temptation Satan suggested that Jesus should put God, and God’s word to the test. Jesus responded by quoting another text from Deuteronomy: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16), which refers to an incident in which “the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘is the Lord among us or not?'” (Ex 17:7). Our temptation to rely on the Power of God and of His word is brought to temptation, especially whenever we face various challenges in life.
“Although no one can be exempt from temptation, still no one should seek it or go of his own accord to the place where it may be found, for undoubtedly he who loves it will perish in it.” St. Francis de Sales.