Autun Carvings by Ghiselbertus, Temptation of Christ
First Sunday of Lent
I keep forgetting to look at the ending of Matthew's story about the Temptation of Jesus; this is of course because I get caught up trying to work out just how the 'Devil' is tempting him! So I wanted to enter the story by another route just to see if I can discover something new for myself. That last sentence; 'Then the devil left him and, behold,â€¨angels came and ministered to him' (Mt 4:11) seems to me to be highly significant. Maybe I am being fanciful, but isn't it a sign that whatever evil may take place, in the end, God's ministry of consolation and reconciliation can never be defeated. I'm sure we all have had 'Angels 'who came unaware into our lives: mine have often helped me in times of stress and trouble, those friends and strangers, and yes, even God's living creatures and nature, who have been messengers of healing and repentance.
These come often unbidden into situations where we are, like Jesus, facing insurmountable difficulties that lead us to consider decisions that would compromise our faith, placing ourselves above others. We see this in the Genesis story where the serpent cunningly leads the woman (and man) by deceptive flattery into believing that they alone will have superior knowledge and power: 'your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods â€¨who know what is good and what is evil."(Gen 3:4).
This is a temptation the human family falls into time and time again, the need for power, control, superiority and ultimate knowledge at any cost. You have only to look at your TV or read the newspapers or media outlets to see how some of us still dominate others. But as we discover in the Genesis account and in the reaction of Jesus in the story of his temptations, that route will lead to self-destruction.
The power of the Gospel, which is what we are called to believe in, is that of 'Good News' which can only truly be understood by those whose route to knowledge is that of humbleness of heart, which we find by being open firstly to a relationship with God, found in the ministry of the Holy Spirit who leads us into the truth and knowledge of Jesus. As Lent begins in earnest, the words of St Paul should be our comfort and hope in all dark times, but also as part of our 'angelic' ministry to others in need, words of true power which show us the true gift that is Christ: "through one righteous act,â€¨acquittal and life came to all"(Rm 5:18). Amen, Lord Jesus!
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for the Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Oxford