The ashes mark the foreheads of Christians as Lent begins. Intense time for prayer, fasting and alms. A time to enter deeply into the mystery of salvation announced by the prophets and which has been fully realized in Christ Jesus. The forty days of this special time invite us to contemplate the face of the Lord under the firm mantle of resurrected and resuscitating hope.
Number forty reminds us of the long journey traveled through the wilderness, a path nuanced by painful dissequensions of the people with his God, but above all by the great mercy of the One who allows himself to be found to remain faithful to the promise made to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever (Cf. Lk 1:55). Israel is a God-led people, the cloud and the column of fire proclaim and guard the walk of the Israelites, they are not alone, but they feel helpless. The Lord cares for them, but that is not enough for them, the memory of slavery becomes constantly woven by the lack of water or food. Then they demand from God a clear intervention, a miracle. The people’s claim is but a dissatisfied desire in the heart of man who wants to believe but under tangible proof of the existence of the One.
In Christ, God’s new people walk in the wilderness again. A man alone, on dry, desolate land, in return for that first man alone, surrounded by animals and precious trees. The desert is the Eden of man who is not content with God’s mysterious presence and tempts him. The New Adam walks through the new garden to assume that vital reality that he has come to redeem, but the garden keeps shouting: give us a sign (Cf. Mk 8.12), is it You or do we have to wait for another? (Lk 7.19), lower from the Cross. (Cf. Mc 15.30).
The passage of temptations in the desert condenses in a single text all the complaints of those who do not want to believe in the Transcendent. The hunger of Jesus reminds us so much hunger in the world, the tragedy of existence that is extinguished by lack of bread, but “not only of bread lives man but of every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord” (Mt 4.4) and in the absence of food, Christ becomes Bread of eternal life multiplied for all, which feeds an innumerable multitude , teaching us to share what little we have.1
The exhortation to cast ourselves from the height of the Temple (cf. Mt 4.6) is confirmation that on many occasions we play with God’s will and subject it to our whims, to our vanos desire to know those blessed by God, the perfect, the honorable. We too keep in our lives experiences so strong and painful that they break the pedestals where we place our idols and without them we are on the verge of the cliff, tempters of the one God, and alone. What to do? The teacher has already said it, “you will not tempt the Lord your God” (Mt 4:7).
He, dying on the cross, embraces her and for her embraces the new people who continue to constantly tempt him. He himself is the true Lamb who is offered on the altar of the cross and rises in the temple which is the whole universe. He makes an obedient silence, the one who is the omnipotent word.
Finally, the misunderstood, misunderstood power that corrupts faithful hearts, which frag-menta sensitivities of those who are subdued, who throws the poor and entols the powerful, is the proposal of the evil one to the Lord: I offer you power, offer me your worship. Dirty exchange and painful reality that often takes us down and envices us. The power of the Son is the will of the Father. It is true power that always respects the dignity of man in the whole of his existence and not the one who mistreats those who should care for and protect. The Lord tells us again: you will only worship the God of Truth, only before Him will you prostrate yourself and offer him worship (cf. Mt 4:10).
They are the temptations of Jesus, temptations for all at any time and circumstance. The prayer that Christ taught us to pray warns us, “Do not let us fall into temptation, deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13). This is the daily plea of the Church to the Father. Temptations are real and present in our daily lives. They remind us that we are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven but that we have to be faithful to death. Let us carry the cross and follow the Master, partakers of his patience, for Christ’s patience is our salvation (cf. 2P 3.15). Ω
1 Benedict XVI: Jesus of Nazareth I, Vatican, 2007, pp. 20-21.