Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Deuteronomy 26:4-10
This reading is normally associated, at least for Anglicans, with the Harvest Festival or, in the United States, with Thanksgiving Day. When read at the beginning of Lent, its emphasis shifts from the offering of the first fruits to the confession of faith that accompanies the offering (Deut 26:5-9).
For contemporary exegetes, this is perhaps the most important passage of the entire Old Testament, or at least of the Pentateuch, occupying a position similar to that of 1 Cor 15:3-8 as the early Christian kerygma.
What Christ’s death and resurrection are to the New Testament, the Exodus is to the Old Testament. These are the basic messages of the two canons.
In each case the mighty acts of God lead to a confession of faith, a recital of those mighty acts.
Responsorial Psalm: 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
Psalm 91 is traditional on this Sunday, the old Introit having given the day its name of Invocavit. It was this psalm that the devil quoted in the temptation story—at the third temptation in Luke.
The devil misapplied the promise of angelic assistance, and Psalm 91:14-15 corrects it. Only those who set their love upon God can expect him to deliver them.
For that reason Christ was delivered: he, more than all others, set his love upon his Father. He was delivered from the cross to resurrection.
Reading II: Romans 10:8-13
Here we have a New Testament confession of faith Rom 10:9) corresponding to the Old Testament confession in the first reading. This confession represents the subject matter of the catechetical instruction given to the candidates before baptism and their profession of faith.
Such simple confessions, as we find them in the New Testament, are the nucleus out of which grew, first the baptismal creed (for example, the Apostles’ Creed), and later, conciliar creeds (for example, that of Nicaea).
The same confession also forms the basic content of the great Eucharistic Prayer.
The unity of the Church, despite the pluralism of its members (Jew and Greek); the unity of the New Testament, despite the variety of its expressions of the Christian message; the unity of the liturgy, despite the existence of different Eucharistic Prayers or Canons, lie in this common, basic confession: God has raised Jesus from the dead and made him Lord.
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
The Lucan version of the temptation differs very little in wording from the more familiar Matthean form. The only notable differences are the rearrangement of the second and third temptations, and the statement that the devil left Jesus “until an opportune time” (Lk 4:13).
Hans Conzelmann saw in this a major clue to Luke’s theology. The ministry of Jesus is the “Satan-free” period; the devil returns to assail Jesus in the passion (Lk 22:3). Thus, Luke deliberately links the temptation story with the passion.
There is an even more suitable link with the passion in the replies of Jesus to the three temptations:
Man shall not live by bread alone. ...
You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve. ...
You shall not tempt the Lord your God. ...
This threefold confession plots the future course of Jesus’ ministry, culminating in the confession that he made before Pontius Pilate.
It was this confession, this single-minded commitment to God’s will for him (which is what the dogma of Christ’s sinlessness really means) that characterized the whole course of Jesus’ ministry and finally led him to the cross.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University