Treasure maps are often featured in epic stories in which the heroes overcome various challenges and conquer ridiculous obstacles with faith, courage, and honour to arrive at their final destination and claim their prize. Treasure maps are quite fascinating: the cryptic symbols and markings, fading lines, obstacles and booby traps along the ever convoluted routes, and finally, the “X” that marks the coveted location of the treasure. No matter how treacherous the journey may appear or how long it may take, seekers are highly motivated by the certainty of the final reward. We, lovers of life and followers of Christ, are treasure-hunters of sorts! If we are serious about the ultimate treasure - seeing God face to face and receiving the gift of eternal life - we better get serious; consult the map, tune our gears, and set out on the greatest treasure hunt of our lives!
This week’s Gospel reading presents a dramatic scene in which Jesus faces the devil’s temptations at the end of His retreat in the desert. Jesus, our road map, demonstrates that “triumph is possible through penance and obedience to God’s word. Rather than earthly bread and power, the faithful must desire the food of God’s will and humility of Christ'' (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible 12). After forty days of fasting, Jesus must have been famished. Hence, the devil’s first temptation is about surrendering to that intense, burning hunger: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread” (Mt 4:3). The pull of immediate gratification is, indeed, one of the most powerful banes that plagues our hearts and minds every single day. What shall we do? Well, let’s consult our treasure map. Scripture says, “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). When we eat bread, we get hungry again; however, when we eat the Body of Christ, we will never go hungry. Only God can totally and perfectly nourish us and fulfil all our needs. Equally potent, if not more, is our fear and longing for security. The devil dares Jesus to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple. Instead of falling into the devil’s snare, Jesus’ response hits the problem on its head, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Mt 4:7). Recall the moments when we are paralyzed by fear and uncertainty; our steps, suddenly halted, and our minds take us to the absolute worst case scenario. The second clue on the treasure map says, “do not be afraid!”, “trust God ''. God’s love for us is unconditional and He already knows what we need even before we do. Our relationship with God should not be a game of “Truth or Dare''; rather it is a genuine and open dialogue built on complete trust and love. The final test presented in this story is the lure of wealth, fame, and power. If Jesus is willing to “prostrate [Himself] and worship” the devil, “all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence” will be at His disposal (Mt 4:9). Consider this temptation in our contemporary world; who wouldn’t want to live like the Khardashians? (who wouldn’t want to live a wealthy and powerful life?) However, at what price are we willing to pay and what really is the devil offering us? Jesus has the final word, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” (Mt 4:10). We must follow the instructions on the map and choose the better path.
Jesus’ triumph over the devil is deeply significant. “Jesus’ victory sets an example for Christian obedience. Earthly life is a wilderness trial for God’s people en route to the land of heaven” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible 12). The Son of God embodies true obedience to and trust in God, our Heavenly Father. The punishment brought on by one man’s disobedience - Adam - is completely reversed and redeemed by Jesus, “For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many” (Rom 5:15). Adam and Eve, tempted by the opportunity to see and know “like gods”, literally shook hands with the devil, disobeyed God (Gen 3:5). The failure of our first parents to have complete confidence in their Creator God is erased by the complete confidence Jesus has in His Father.
As we begin our Lenten journey, let us be ready, consult the map, tune our gears, and embark on the treasure hunt of our life! Let us not forget to pack in our bags, humility, so that we may see with God’s wisdom instead of human foibles; courage so that we may not tremble in fear along this wildly unknown journey; openness to new challenges and opportunities, and most importantly, faith and trust in the love of God.