'At times during our lives, like Our Lord, we too need to live for forty days in the desert, to attend more closely to God and to purify our hearts. Each year we penetrate more deeply, and share more fully, the mystery of divine life and love revealed in the death, resurrection and ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. During Lent we reflect on the mystery by recalling the three temptations of Our Lord after his forty days of fasting and prayer.
The temptations of Christ reveal the human condition. They tell us something about faith and hope and the sovereignty of God over the whole of creation. First, the devil took advantage of Jesus' hunger after forty days of fasting to tempt him to limit his concern to the relief of physical human need: giving bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, housing the homeless. These are vital concerns and God cares about them, but they cannot be the sole concern of the Saviour or of the Church which continues his mission. We need too a reason for living, a sense of purpose, a vision. We need the bread of life, the word of truth which comes from God. The best gift to the world is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
The second temptation was to seek a sign from the Father, a dramatic intervention to overwhelm all disbelief and opposition. On Calvary there was an echo of the same temptation: "Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him." (Matthew 27:42). But miraculous escape is a delusion. The children of God have to be prepared to wait in faith and enduring hope. We realise, like Christ, that love alone will conquer hate and that life is found only in the experience of death. In darkness we have faith in the light, we hope for life without end. Despair paralyses the human will. Instead, we are offered the inspiration of hope and new life.
The final temptation is to use earthly power and strength to enforce the good we wish to achieve. But whatever the motive, we must follow the path God the Father has shown us in the life of his Son. In faith and hope we must be content with weakness and apparent failure. The blessing we bring to our world is the message of Jesus Christ, a message that we must communicate and put into practice. It is the only answer to the unbelief and moral anarchy that causes so much misery.
It is our task to witness to the truth and commit ourselves to the Gospel of reconciliation, peace, unity and love of others. We must be consistent and wholehearted in our service of God.'
from The Mystery of the Cross, 1998, by Basil, Cardinal Hume OSB, 1923-1999
Fr Lee Kenyon
Priest, Husband, Father, Lancastrian, Mancunian