Wanting to rescue us from the slavery to the devil, the Lord Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Pope Benedict explained that the fasting of Jesus in the desert is “a descent into the perils besetting mankind, for there is no other way to lift up fallen humanity…He must recapitulate the whole of human history from its beginnings – from Adam on; he must go through, suffer through the whole of it, in order to transform it.” (Jesus of Nazareth, 26.) The slavery of the whole world to sin and death was brought about by the disobedience of one man (Adam). Adam’s disobedience came when he fell for the temptation of the serpent. Temptation is a seduction to sin. Satan enticed Adam and Eve to look at, take, try and taste what is forbidden. He wanted Adam and Eve to disregard God’s decrees and commands and instead, appropriate for themselves the right and the power to determine what is good and evil. It was a costly decision which Adam and Eve made because “a single offense brought condemnation to all men…through one man’s disobedience, all became sinners…”
The Lord Jesus wanted to return to man whatever was stolen from him by the devil. Adam was successfully tempted to disobey God. Jesus had to undergo the same temptation in order to undo Adam’s disobedience by his obedience. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus went to the desert. The devil challenges Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. The devil “seeks to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the way of sacrifice, of love that offers itself in expiation, to make him take an easier path, one of success and power…The devil, to divert Jesus from the way of the cross, sets before him false messianic hopes: economic well-being (indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread); a dramatic and miraculous style (with the idea of throwing himself down from the highest point of the Temple and being saved by angels); and lastly, a shortcut to power and dominion, in exchange for an act of adoration to Satan.” (Pope Francis, Angelus, March 9, 2014) “At the heart of all temptations is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building our own foundation; refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion - that is the temptation that threatens us in many forms.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 28)
Satan puts the question of relevance into the mission of Jesus as Messiah: What kind of Messiah are you if you do not bring universal prosperity, or world peace, or a better world? The Church, because she is the Mystical Body of Christ, is constantly confronted by the temptation to be relevant. Disregarding the Church’s record of charity, politicians constantly repeat what Satan said: “Why don’t you turn stones into bread? Why don’t you just impress us by your miracles? Why don’t you conquer all mankind and force them to live in peace?” If you do not solve the problems of humanity and establish a perfect drug and crime-free world, you are not the Messiah we need!
And so, Jesus came and until now, there is still hunger and poverty. Until now, the world is not at peace. Until now, there is no universal prosperity. The world is not yet a better world. And so, what has Jesus done? What has he given us? “The answer is very simple: God. He has brought us God…He has brought God and now we know his face. Now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of the hardness of our heart that we think this is too little. Yes, indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again, it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves. The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord at that time have all passed away. Their glory has proven to be a mere semblance (illusion). But the glory of Christ, the humble, self-sacrificing glory of his love, has not passed away, nor will it ever do so.
“Jesus has emerged victorious from his battle with Satan. To the tempter’s lying divinization of power and prosperity, to his lying promise of a future that offers all things to all men through power and through wealth – he responds with the fact that God is God, that God is man’s true Good. To the invitation to worship power, the Lord answers with a passage from Deuteronomy (the same book the devil himself had cited): ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him alone will you serve.’ God alone is to be worshipped…this unconditional Yes to the first tablet of the 10 commandments also includes the Yes to the 2nd tablet – reverence for man, love of neighbor.” At the end, “angels came and ministered to him.” Psalm 91:11 now comes to fulfillment: The angels serve him, he has proven himself to be the Son, and heaven therefore stands open above him, the new Jacob, the Patriarch of a new universalized Israel.” (Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth, 44 - 45.)
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!