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Gospel Of Sunday, Feb. 26: Matthew 4:1-11

First Sunday in Lent A: Gospel of Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Dear Sisters and Confreres of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, physician, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Jesus, too, the Gospel tells us (Matthew 4:1-11), was subjected like us to temptations

“He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Mt 4:1): beautiful this verse.

It is the Spirit of God who led him into the wilderness to be tempted: it is God who made us limited, who made us creatures, in order to have a partner in love who was other than himself, he who is the infinite, the limitless, the eternal; he made man with a creaturely limit, so that he could be different from him, in order to dialogue with him in love, so that man is limited, subjected to the test, subjected to temptation.

So it is the Spirit who allows the test, in order to allow us to respond in love to God’s love.

God does not take us by the neck, God does not rape us.

God offers us his Love and has made us capable of adhering to his love or even rejecting it.

In the positive exercise of freedom we are allowed to prove that we are faithful to him.

The desert is the place of trial, of the struggle against evil spirits; it is the place where we are far from the riches of this world, we are far from everything, from everyday life.

It is also the place of encounter with God, the place where we can listen to his voice, dialogue with him, relate to him; it is the place where we can “make love” to God.

But it is also the place of trial, the place where we can regret the onions of Egypt, regret the flesh of Pharaoh, where we curse that we came out of the land of slavery of Egypt, where we do not believe that we will get to the Promised Land, the place where we can make the idol of the golden calf, and also the place where we face the struggle against enemies.

Jesus is taken there “for forty days” (Mt. 1:2).

Forty is a symbolic number by which God’s appointed time is meant: not only in biblical writings, but also in other Hebrew writings the number forty often recurs as a symbol to define a time willed by God: Israel is in the wilderness forty years; Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles tell us, ascends to heaven after forty days.

This is the classic time of fasting: throughout much of Scripture, forty days of fasting is always mentioned.

“The tempter then drew near to him” (Mt 4:3): Peirázôn is the one who leads into temptation, to the rebellious murmuring of the desert of the Exodus.

Satan (which means: “Accuser”) in the earliest books of the First Testament is the prosecutor in the trial God intends for men and nations: he is not a villain, but he is the angel is so faithful to the Law, in love with the Law, that he continually, before God, accuses sinful men.

Israel finds Satan continually accusing him for his sins, out of loyalty to the Law.

In fact, there is the literary genre of the “Trial of IHWH”; IHWH calls the nations, one by one: in such a trial the accuser is Satan, the one who says, “IHWH, punish Israel because she has sinned,” thus the Public Prosecutor.

The latter is soon heard as the adversary.

At the time of Jesus, especially on the part in a certain rabbinic theology, also due to particular Persian influences, demons are described as fallen angels: but the story of fallen angels is not explicitly in the Bible, apart from perhaps a fleeting mention in Jd 6.

Some assert that these demons would be the sons of God who married the daughters of man (Gen 6)

However, at the time of Jesus these creatures are thought to exist, who at first accused Israel because they were in love with the Law, then at some point they began to be adversaries.

Here in the A.T. from being an accuser he becomes an adversary, he becomes the enemy of man, not only the one who accuses Israel before God, but the one who tempts Israel, who enjoys seeing Israel in trouble.

The rabbis, taking up the idea of Persian origin, think of these demons as negative figures, who foment evil among men and become to some extent 1 God’s adversary.

The name “devil” is derived from the Greek word “diaballo,” which means “I divide”: demons are the dividers, because they are those who divide man from God, divide men ago of them and divide man within himself.

That is, they are the cause of our schizophrenias, our inner divisions, our anxieties, our anxieties.

If we notice, often in the New Testament demons are described in collective terms: “Seven demons came out of her” (Mk. 16:9); “What is your name?”, Jesus asks a demon; and he is given for an answer the name “Legion, for we are many”: Legion in fact means “group” (Mk. 5:9). The forces of evil in us cause internal fractures, anxiety, schizophrenia.

Hebrew letters have a numerical value, like Roman numerals (L is worth fifty, X is worth 10, etc.).

The name “Satan,” written in Hebrew, is equivalent to the number 364, which are the days of the year minus one, the day of Kippur or the Feast of Atonement, to mean that our whole life, our whole reality, is under this sign of evil.

Satan, however, is not the origin of evil, he is not an anti-God, much less an evil god who opposes a good God. Genesis clearly tells us that Satan is a beast, one of the beasts of the earth, the serpent that crawls, thus a creature (Gen 3:1).

He is not an evil power: he is a free creature who votes against, who does not pull on God’s side, but he is not the origin and source of evil.

Jesus, taking the culture of his time, sees as prey to these evil forces, symbolized by the figures of demons, the sick, who will often be called the possessed: that is, they are people who are under this influence of evil forces.

They are called unclean spirits because they are contrary to God: God is holy, God is the Holy One, and what is not Holy is not pure and therefore far from God.

The Reformed Churches have always interpreted demons only in a symbolic sense.

The Catholic Church, based on biblical texts, has always proposed the existence of these demons as real people.

But, let us remember well, they are subordinate realities.

Let us not give them much space! We too are Satan: when we are against God, when we sin, when we instead of setting a good example set a bad example, we do the same thing the devil does.

The devil is not an occult power with who knows what tremendous force: he is a beast, as Genesis says, one “of the beasts of the wilderness,” and he is absolutely vanquished by the Lord’s Resurrection.

Jesus will say this in so many passages in which he speaks of demons: he will say that he is the strongest, and that he will definitely overcome demons, and demons were definitely defeated in the passion death and resurrection of Jesus (Luke 11:14-21).

So, in a civilization like the present one, where people believe in sorceresses, magicians, “black masses,” and stories of this kind, we need to strongly reaffirm that the Christian religion is not the religion of the devil. which is just a beast, but that it is the religion of Jesus Christ, Son of God who, by dying on the Cross and rising again, definitively conquers evil, sickness, sin, and death.

Jesus truly experiences the difficulties of men.

Jesus is tempted, and all his life he will be continually tempted, but by overcoming temptation he is the new Adam, the perfect man.

He had before him the temptation of the miraculous: “If you are the Son of God, say that these stones may become bread!”; he had the temptation of “special effects”: “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down, for it is written, ‘To his angels he will give orders concerning you, and they will uphold you'”; he had the temptation of power: “All these things I will give you if you prostrate yourself to worship me.”

Instead, before Jesus was God’s proposition already expressed in Deuteronomy: “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Deut. 8:3); “Do not tempt the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:16); “Worship the Lord your God and worship him alone” (Deut. 6:13). It is by the power of God’s Word, by the power of Scripture, that temptation is overcome.

Good Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com

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