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1st SUNDAY OF LENT (Cycle C)

Readings:
Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15
Romans 10:8-13
Luke 4:1-13

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God,s Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Professing our Faith
Professions or confessions of faith are formal statements that declare what the collective "body of the faithful" believes. These professions determine the identity of the unity of believers. Such professions are repeated often and strengthen the mutually shared commitment of the community. This was the case for the first Old Testament profession of faith known as the Shema, still faithfully repeated by Jews today, and for the Christian professions of faith today.

The early Christian confessions of faith are found in the letters of St. Paul, the Apostles' Creed that tradition dates to the era of the Apostles, and the Nicene-Constantinople Creed which dates to the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in the 4th century AD. The Creed originated in the early Church as a threefold profession of faith ( in the Father, in the Son , and in the Holy Spirit) made by those being baptized and accompanied by a triple immersion in the baptismal waters. Later this baptismal profession of faith was expanded into a statement of basic beliefs about our Catholic Faith. The original Apostle's Creed was expanded by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 in response to heresies concerning the Holy Trinity that were causing division in the Church. It was slightly revised later into its present form in the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381. Still later the Creed was introduced into the Mass.

Today's Liturgy deals with Jesus' first challenge by Satan in the Gospel Reading and professions of belief in both the Old and the New Testaments (First and Second Readings). Our First Reading introduces a historical president for the publically professed Creed (Dt 26:4-10) on the God-ordained feast of Firstfruits that was celebrated on the day after the Sabbath of the holy week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the first day of the week (Lev 23:10-14). The celebration of this feast in 30 AD will be Resurrection Sunday (Mt 28:1). In the Second Reading St. Paul repeats an early Christian baptismal creed. In the celebration of the Mass, we also offer a publically confessed creed. Our professions of faith contain everything we must believe as Christians. In the Nicene-Constantinople Creed we profess in the Mass, we publically give our answer to Jesus' question, "Who do people say that I am?" (Mk 8:29). We declare that He is the only begotten Son of God who is the Redeemer-Messiah, the Savior of the world and our personal Savior. As it is written by the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy" (Heb 10:23).

The First Reading Deuteronomy 26:4-10 ~ The Creed of the Israelites
Moses spoke to the people saying: 4 "The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.  5 Then you shall declare before the LORD, your God, 'My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien.  But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous.  6 When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, 7 we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.  8 He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; 9 and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.  10 Therefore, I have not brought you the firstfruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me."  And having set them before the LORD, your God, you shall bow down in his presence."

This Scripture reading is a eucharistic profession of faith.  The word "eucharist" is from the Greek eucharistia and means "thanksgiving."   This reading is a confession of thanksgiving from the ritual prescribed for the Old Covenant feast days of Firstfruits and Weeks (later called Pentecost) when the faithful brought forward the first fruits of the barley and wheat harvest to God's holy altar in thanksgiving for His blessings in a fruitful harvest.  In this profession, the faithful recounted the history of the people of God beginning with Jacob-Israel and the children of Israel migrating into Egypt (Gen 46-47) and ending with the Exodus liberation (Ex 12-15) and the conquest of the Promised Land (Book of Joshua).  It is a common occurrence for a people to celebrate their origins in their rituals, as in the case of the Old Covenant profession of faith at the harvest festivals and for Christians who celebrate their origins in the sacrifice, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  These two Old Covenant feasts of "thanksgiving" were transformed in the New Covenant in Christ into the feast of the Resurrection and the feast of the second great Pentecost in the birth of the New Covenant Church in 30 AD.

Responsorial Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15 ~ A Confession of Trust in the Lord
The response is: "Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble."
1 You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 2 say to the LORD, "My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust."
Response:
10 No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, 11 for to his angels he has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways.
Response:
12 Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.  13 You shall tread upon the asp and the viper; you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.
Response:
14 Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.  15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him.

Psalm 91 gives the occasion for profound reflection by Christians especially in this First Sunday in Lent in its beautiful confession of faith and trust in God.  We begin our Liturgical celebration in the entrance antiphon by quoting from verses 15-16.  In our reading, the psalmist proclaims the Lord as his refuge and his God in whom he places his complete trust (verses 1-2).  He has confidence that no evil or affliction will touch him because he has recourse to his Lord who will send divine help to enable him to cope with any difficulty from snakes to wild beasts, literally and figuratively (verses 10-13).  In response to his faith God promises the psalmist that when he calls out for help, he will be heard and he will be saved.

Verses 11-12 are quoted by Satan when he tempts Jesus by urging him to throw himself off the pinnacle of the Temple to prove He is the Messiah (Mt 4:5-6; Lk 4:9-11).  Jesus does not deny the truth of these words, but he corrects the misinterpretation since they are being used to test God's faithfulness.  Jesus tells Satan "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, you God, to the test" (Mt 4:7).  Later Jesus will assure His disciples that nothing will be able to harm them by using words similar to verse 13: "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall  hurt you" (Lk 10:19).  We have the same assurance.  Our enemies may be able to harm our bodies, but that cannot harm our souls for our souls belong to Christ.

The Second Reading Romans 10:8-13 ~ Baptismal Confession of the Early Christians
What does Scripture say?  "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith that we preach, for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.  For the Scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame."  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.  For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

This reading contains an early baptismal confession: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  Our baptismal vows are more elaborate today, but the confession is essentially the same.  It is the Lord Jesus Christ who offers us the gift of eternal salvation and "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  To believe in the "name" of Jesus is to believe and be obedient to everything He taught and the deposit of faith that He passed on to His Church.

TheGospel of Luke 4:1-13 ~ The temptation of Jesus-the second Adam
1 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert 2 for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.' 5 Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. 6 The devil said to him, "I shall give you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. 7 All this will be yours, if you worship me." 8 Jesus said to him in reply, "It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'" 9 Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,' 11 and 'With their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'" 12 Jesus said to him in reply, "It also says, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'" 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have the details of Jesus' temptation by Satan. At the end of His ordeal of 40 days of fasting and prayer, Jesus was hungry like any man. Recognizing His physical weakness, Satan saw an opportune time to test Jesus. The word diabolos in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) and the New Testament is usually translated "devil," but in Hebrew the word is satan, meaning "adversary" or "accuser" as in a court of law. An example of this imagery is found in the book of Job where "the satan" is standing in the heavenly court accusing the man Job (Job 1:1-8); and also the use of the word "accuser/satan" in Ps 109:5b-7 My enemies say of me: Find a lying witness, an [the] accuser [ha satan] to stand by his right hand, that he may be judged and found guilty, that his plea may be in vain. The most frequent use in the Old Testament, however, is in the metaphorical sense of an adversary (for example see 1 Sam 29:4) Every place the title "Satan" is found in the Old Testament it is preceded by the definite article "the;" the one exception is in 1 Chronicles 21:1 where it is a proper name.

Satan is a created being who was once an angel but who is now a fallen angel and the adversary of both God and man. The Book of Revelation identifies Satan as the same serpent who tempted Adam and Eve into sin and became the "deceiver of the whole world" (see Rev 12:7-9 and CCC 391-95 and 2852). In Isaiah 14:11-15, God promised His people that the day would come when the King of Babylon would be held accountable for the suffering he caused the Israelites and the people would taunt the Babylonian king concerning his downfall. Within the lines of the taunt, the king is compared to another evil force, a beautiful creature whose pride led to his downfall when in his five declared "I wills" he announced himself God's enemy (Is 14:13-14). A similar passage is found in Ezekiel 28:11-19 where the lament over the king of Tyre also takes on a descriptive dimension of the fall of Satan: In Eden, the garden of God, you were, and every precious stone was your covering ... blameless you were in your conduct from the day you were created, until evil was found in you ...Then I banned you from the mountain of God; the Cherub drove your from among the fiery stones. You became haughty of heart because of your beauty; for the sake of splendor you debased your wisdom. I cast you to the earth, so great was your guilt ... (Ez 28:13-17). In his first letter to the Church, St. John wrote: Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8).

In Luke 4:3 Satan begins the test by asking Jesus to give proof that He is the "Son of God."  Perhaps Satan is not certain that Jesus is the Messiah or he wants to lure Jesus into the sin of rebellion against God; therefore, he tests Jesus. Later it is clear that the demons recognize Jesus' true identity as the divine Son of God (i.e. Mt 8:29; Mk 1:24; 5:7; Lk 4:34, 41; 8:28). The title "son of God" was a title that was also assigned to:

See Job 1:16; Ex 4:22; Wis 18:13; Dt 14:1-2; Mt 5:9, 45; Ps 2:7; 89:27/26; 2 Sam 7:8, 12-14; 1 Chr 17:13.

However, Jesus' rank of divine sonship is different from the others who bore the title previously in salvation history (see Mt 4:11; 7:21; 22:42-46; Mk 1:13; Jn 10:15, 29-30; 14:9-10, 20; 16:15):

The events of the Resurrection and Ascension will confirm Jesus' claim to the unique title "Son of God."

In His encounter with Satan, Jesus the Son of God is enacting both Adam's temptation by the Serpent in the Garden of Eden and Israel's temptations in the desert after leaving Egypt as God's "first-born son" among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23). St. Paul called Jesus the "last Adam" (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-47), and the Fathers of the Church called Him the "new Adam" and the "second Adam" (CCC 359 and 504).

St. John the Apostle wrote: Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world (1 Jn 1:15-16 NJB). St. John has summed up the temptations of the world into three categories: sensual lust (desires of the flesh), enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life (1 Jn 2:15-16). 

The Temptations of the First and Second Adams Contrasted
Temptations The first Adam Genesis 3:1-6 Jesus, the new Adam Luke 4:1-13
The devil's invitation to rebellion "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees...?" The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God ...
Hunger, a desire of the flesh The woman saw that the tree was good for food ...command this stone to become bread"
Enticement for the eyes: pleasing to the eyes, and Then he took him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world ... "All this will be yours if you worship me."
The pride of a pretentious life (power)

 

desirable for gaining wisdom "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here... He will command his angels concerning you ..."
Michal E. Hunt © 2012

Comparisons can also be made between the desert testing experiences of Jesus, the Son of God, and the Israelites, the sons of God, in their Exodus experience:

Israel Jesus
Israel is God's "first-born son" from among the nations of the earth (Ex 4:22-23) Jesus is the Son of God (Lk 1:32)
The Israelites were baptized by passing through the waters of the Red Sea and then, accompanied by God's spirit in the pillar of cloud and fire, they went into the desert (Ex 13:21-22; 14:21-22; 15:22) After Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the desert (Lk 4:1)
The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years where they suffered from hunger (Ex 16:2-3) After 40 days in the desert, Jesus was hungry (Lk 4:2)
God tested Israel (Ex 16:4; Dt 8:2) God allowed Satan to test Jesus (Lk 4:1-13)  
The Israelites continually failed their tests of covenant obedience and loyalty, even to the point of worshiping a golden idol (Ex 32:1-6) Jesus passed His tests. He remained faithful and obedient to God, and He refused to bow down to worship Satan (Lk 4:8)
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Satan is Jesus' great adversary. Jesus describes the devil as "a murderer from the beginning" who "does not stand in truth because there is no truth in him" (Jn 8:44). Jesus' mission is not only to free mankind from bondage to sin and death but to "destroy the works of the devil"; the most heinous of the devil's works was to lead man to disobey God (1 Jn 3:8, CCC 394).

In Jesus' contest with Satan, the devil addressed Jesus three times. Jesus responded by quoting Scripture three times from Deuteronomy 8:3a, 6:13 and 6:16, using the formula "it is written" twice in verses 4 and 8. The devil quoted Scripture once from Psalm 91:10-12 and used the formula statement "it is written" once (verse 10). Notice that all of Jesus' quotations from Scripture are from the Book of Deuteronomy:

It is not a coincidence that all of Jesus' responses to Satan come from the Book of Deuteronomy. We must ask what was significant about events in the Book of Deuteronomy that have a bearing on Jesus' testing by Satan?  See Mt 3:1-2; Lk 4:1-2; Ex 15:25b; 16:4; Dt 1:1-3; 8:16; Ps 106:14. The answer is that Jesus' tests took place after His forty days in the desert wilderness and the Book of Deuteronomy takes place after Israel's forty years of desert wandering.

Read those three passages from Deuteronomy that Jesus quoted in context in the book of Deuteronomy and notice the three similar tests the Israelite's face in the desert (see Ex 16:3-4; 17:7 and 32:1-6):

All of Jesus' quotes from Scripture are from passages in Deuteronomy where Moses recalls Israel's testing in the desert journey from Egypt to Mt Sinai. In Jesus' temptations He was faced with three similar tests:

  1. Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger (Ex 16:3; Dt 8:2-3)
  2. Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:7; Dt 6:16)
  3. Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry in worshiping the Golden Calf (Ex 32:1-6; Dt 6:12-15)

When we compare the three tests of the Israelites on the journey to Mt. Sinai to Jesus' three tests, there is an obvious difference-Satan gave Jesus three similar tests; however, unlike the Israelite "sons of God," Jesus, the obedient and faithful Son, passed His three tests:

Israel Jesus
Israel was tested when the people complained of hunger; God gave them manna (Ex 16:3, 4) Jesus was hungry when Satan challenged Him to make bread out of a stone (Lk 4:3-4)
Israel put God to the test at Massah and Meribah to prove God was with them (Ex 17:7) Jesus refused to put God to the test when Satan challenged Him to prove He was the Son of God (Lk 4:9-12)
Israel yielded to the temptation to commit idolatry in the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:1-6) Jesus refused to bow down and worship Satan (Lk 4:6-8)
Michal E. Hunt © 2011

Note: in St. Matthew's three temptations, #2 and 3 are reversed, reflecting the same order as the Israelites' desert temptations listed above.

During the desert period, the Israelites often tested God's faithfulness. At the end of the 40 years of desert wandering, when they were ready to possess the land of Canaan, Moses gave three warnings/perils to the children of Israel of the judgment they would face in Deuteronomy 6:10-16. The Israelites were told they would be in danger of losing the blessings God promised the Patriarchs and would be driven from the land if:

  1. They fail to remember God's intervention in their history and their commitment to be obedience God's covenant treaty pledged at Mt. Sinai.
  2. They follow other gods.
  3. They continually test God's faithfulness

Jesus will not fail as the Israelites failed. He will fulfill all His obligations as an obedient Son of God.

Satan tests Jesus three times:

Test #1 Luke 4:3-4 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'

Test #2: Luke 4:5-8 Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. 6 The devil said to him, "I shall give you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. 7 All this will be yours, if you worship me." 8 Jesus said to him in reply, "It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.'"

Test #3 Luke 4:9-12 Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,' 11 and 'With their hands they will support you, least you dash your foot against a stone.'" 12 Jesus said to him in reply, "It also says, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'"

Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.
After completing His covenant ordeal, the angels of the heavenly court came to minister/serve Jesus (Mt 4:11). However, the devil has only departed "for a time." The devil returned to test God the Son a final time.  Jesus' final test will come as He prays alone in the Garden of Gethsemane and then makes His final act of obedience and submission to the will of God the Father.

Question for reflection or group discussion: Does God tempt us to sin? See James 1:2-6, 12-18; Wis 2:12-13; 3:1, 5; Sir 15:11-20; 1 Cor 10:6-13 and CCC 1730, 2846, 2847.

Answer: God does not tempt us to sin. God tests us but at the same time never tests us beyond our ability to withstand the temptation (1 Cor 10:13) and at the same time provides what we need to have victory over sin to allow us to grow stronger in faith. However, while God would never tempt us to do evil, He will allow Satan to tempt us and when we rise above that temptation we are strengthened and purified by the experience: But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. [...]. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace..." (Wis 3:1a, 5 NJB).

Take courage when you are tested and claim this Psalms: The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand (Ps 37:23-24 NJB). St. John of Avila wrote "God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm" (Sermon 9).

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for Luke 4:1-13: 695, 2855, 2096, 2119, 438. Also see the www.AgapeBibleStudy.com study on the Gospel of Luke, Lesson # 4.

Catechism References:
Psalm 91:10-13 (CCC 336)
Romans 10:8-13 (CCC 432), 10:9 (CCC 14, 186, 449), 10:12-13 (CCC 2739), 10:13 (CCC 2666)
Luke 4:1-13: 438, 695, 2096, 2119, 2855. Also see the www.AgapeBibleStudy.com study on the Gospel of Luke, Lesson # 4.