The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent was about the temptation of Christ in the desert. It seemed to me any reflection I read about this passage was introduced with the following verse:
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:4)
The phrases that jumped out to me were “bread alone,” “every word,” and “mouth of God.” Most commentaries explain that the bread is a symbol of the physical world. But the phrase that Jesus quotes doesn’t end with bread, but that bread alone cannot sustain a person. For me that indicates that, yes, bread is important, but it is not the sole important factor in life. To really live means to have bread and the word of God. If bread is symbolizing the physical world, then yes, we need the everyday physical world and we need the spiritual world as well; we need to live as part of both. As humans, we can make it an either/or. Since our humanity immerses us in the physical world, it is very easy to be consumed with what we can see and touch. Jesus is asking us to listen, not just to the immediate sounds around us in the physical world, but to listen with our soul, our spiritual center, to what God is communicating to us. We are not meant to just exist in the world, living from meal to meal or day to day, but to truly live, which includes embracing the mission God has given each of us.
When I think of God speaking, the first thing that pops into my head is the creation story in Genesis, usually Him saying: “Let there be light.” God’s word speaks creation into existence; not only addressing each element of light, sky, stars, sun, earth, water, and living creatures, but also placing each into relationship with the other elements. The “mouth of God” creates, not just causing things to exist, but to exist in accord with His purpose. The phrase “every word” tells me that there is nothing without meaning or purpose when God speaks. All too often, because we know God spoke creation into existence, resting on the seventh day, we think that God doesn’t speak much anymore. But God continues to speak through the Scriptures and through all of creation, still putting put forth His word as a creative act that forges relationships among His works, and helps reveal His will.
Since even Jesus was tempted, we know that we cannot escape being tempted many times ourselves. During those trials, it may help us to consider whether what we are tempted to do or say is really accomplishing God’s will. Is this temptation bringing us into a closer relationship with creation? Is what we are tempted to do good for the world on some grand scope or is it good for our neighborhood in an immediate way? If the answer to those questions is no, we can ask for God to provide aid in overcoming the temptation, so that as He speaks His word, His will can be done.