The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert

Today’s Gospel is St. Luke’s account of Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. Satan puts before Jesus three temptation, asking him to turn stone to bread, offering him all of the kingdoms of the world, and asking him to throw himself from a tower to prove God’s angels will protect him.

There are different ways of interpreting the three temptations faced by Jesus. I just read a reflection from Henri Nouwen that gave me a different and helpful way of thinking about them. He writes

The “Tempter” came to [Jesus] asking him to prove that he was worth being loved. The “Temptor” said to him: “Do something useful, like turning stones into bread. Do something sensational, like throwing yourself down from a high tower. Do something that brings you power, like paying me homage.

The three temptations were three ways to seduce Jesus into becoming a competitor for love. The world of the “Tempter” is precisely that world in which people compete for love through doing useful, sensational, and powerful things…that gain them affection and admiration.

Jesus, resists the temptation, secure in his knowledge that He is already the Beloved of God, knowing that He doesn’t have to do anything to earn that love.

The obvious question is: Do we have the same security as Jesus that we are God’s beloved? That we don’t have to do anything useful or sensational or powerful to secure God’s love? If we don’t, then we are vulnerable to the temptation to compete for love. So we pray for the grace to know that we are unconditionally and boundlessly and everlastingly loved by our God. To know that we need to nothing in order to earn that love and that nothing we do can ever cause us to lose that love.