In today’s Gospel Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to rely upon God the Father, and to pray and fast for Forty days. By doing this Jesus shows us how we are to overcome the temptations of the devil, the world, and our own broken human nature.
As Christian disciples, as student followers of Jesus Christ in his Church, what can we learn from this? First, that the devil will tempt us just as he tempted Jesus. When we try to progress in our spiritual life there will be some temptations, but God’s grace is stronger. The devil says that if we really are sons and daughters of God, it is not necessary to fast, to pray, nor to suffer. The devil tried to tempt Jesus with this false dream that he and his disciples could feed the world without sacrifice, without following God’s plan: “Just turn these stones into bread, if you are the Son of God.”
But we believe that God is a loving Father who asks us to sacrifice a good: a portion of food, for a greater good, the grace of God’s word perfectly lived by Jesus Christ who fasted in obedience to his heavenly Father. For it is written, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Our obedience to fast corresponds to Jesus’ fast. He was able to overcome the temptations of the flesh and can feed the world through his followers if we are willing to follow his lead. Unfortunately, many Christians are too interested in hanging on to power, making money and being entertained with worldly pleasures, instead of following and receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and in the poor people of the world. Yet, many Christians are following Christ and gather weekly to share their gifts with the material and spiritual poor.
In order to prepare our hearts and minds to receive Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist we should fast one hour before receiving Holy Communion, including abstaining from gum, candy, coffee or juice. The only exception to breaking the Eucharistic fast is for medicine and water. As well, and more importantly, the best way to prepare to receive our good Lord in Holy Communion is to be sure we are free from mortal sin by making a good confession in the Sacrament of
Confession, with the aim of helping the material and spiritual poor in our midst.
Every Friday throughout the year, but especially during Lent, we fast from meat and other things in order to grow in holiness. Why every Friday? Because Jesus Christ died on the tree of the cross on Friday, and we want to follow him in solidarity. Jesus stretched out his hands in perfect obedience to the tree of the cross to undue the disobedience of Adam and Eve. For they stretched out their hands in disobedience to take and eat the forbidden fruit by which Original Sin – the source of all sin, and material and spiritual poverty – entered the world.
Since Jesus’ obedient death on the cross is the source of all graces, we want to unite our sacrifices and sufferings, our hopes and dreams to Christ on the cross in order to receive the promises of the resurrection – the Eternal Easter – of which we celebrate every Sunday and Holy Day of obligation.
The devil tries to raise doubts in the mind of Jesus:
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here because it is written: The angels of the Lord have been ordered to care for you, and sustain you by their hands, in order that your feet will not trip on stones.” Jesus responds by quoting the Bible accurately, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Note well that the devil uses the Bible in a perverse way to tempt Jesus away from God’s will. Some people will also try to pervert good things, like the Bible, to try to tempt us away from the practice of our Catholic faith.
Satan does not want our certain salvation that comes to us in Jesus Christ and his Catholic faith. Satan tempts us with worldly power just as his tempted Jesus by offering worldly power, but only if Jesus would adore and serve Satan. Again, Jesus quotes the Bible correctly to defend himself: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
Let us always be patient with people who try to tempt us to leave the Catholic faith. They may be sincere, but they have a misunderstanding of our God given Catholic faith. Thus, we need to remind them that Jesus Christ is the divine head of the one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It was under his authority that the Catholic Church chose and preserved the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, while rejecting false gospels.
One false gospel said that women must become men in heaven. We know that is wrong because the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Queen of heaven. We read about this in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, chapter 12.
We read about St. Mary being crowned with twelve stars and giving birth to Jesus Christ who will rule the nations.
Those twelve stars can help us remember the Twelve Apostles around Saint Mary at Pentecost, as well as chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation.
By being in the desert for forty days, Jesus taught us that we must rely on God, his divine grace and his Divine Word in the Bible to conquer the temptations of our own broken nature, the fallen world, and the devil. By understanding the truth of the Bible, which is the foundation of our Catholic faith, and by fasting and praying, we can follow Jesus Christ more closely in order to grow in holiness toward heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe