The First Sunday In Lent The Gospel Matt.4.v.1. Tuesday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Matt. 4:1-11At that time, Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Who answered and said: "It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from themouth of God." Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, And said to him: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone." Jesus said to him: "It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: "All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me." Then Jesus saith to him: "Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve."
Naaman, a great Prince of the King of Syria his court, being strike with a leprosy all over his body, hearing of the fame of Heliseus the Prophet, for such cures, went to him: he appointed him to was himself in a certain river seven times, and told him he should be cured; he did it, and was cured. Sin is a leprosy, and we are all infected and, in the compass of a year, no doubt much defiled therewith: wherefore our holy mother the Church appointed this time of lent, to wash ourselves, & make us clean in the wholesome waters of fasting, prayer and alms, and other holy exercises, for the worthy celebration of Easter; and in this time of lent we may aptly be said to wash ourselves seven times, because we fast seven weeks, resting every Sunday between, which taketh it, as it were, seven several washings: as that of Naamans was, which washing of his, no doubt was a figure or type of ours, as very many other things in the old law were of the new.
How potent a thing fasting is with God, we are taught, where the disciples of Christ, upbraided by the people that they tried, and could not cast forth a devil, (which Christ did immediately after cast our) asked Christ privately, why they could not cast him forth; Christ answered: this kind of devil is not cast out but in fasting and prayer.
How sovereign a medicine and remedy fasting is, against sin, the prophet David shewth saying, I hid my soul in fasting, that is to say, I hid it so there, that the devil with all his temptations could not find it out, nor have any access there unto.
The commodities of it the Church briefly toucheth in the preface the Mass for lent, in these words directed to God: who by corporal fasting repressest vices, elevate the mind, gives virtue, and reward.
How hard a thing it is to fast, Saint Jerome sheweth in these words, speaking of himself: when for many years, saith he, I deprived myself of my him, of my Sister, and kinsfolk and (that which was harder) of dainty meats; I went to jerusalem to fight, to wit in the service of God, where we may see, the holy man found fasting more difficult, then to forsake that, which useth to be most dear unto us, as him, parents, brethren, and Sisters, especially when there is but one, (as it seems St. Jerome had but one only Sister) Kinsfolk, acquaintance, and the like.
These were those difficulties with which God tried Abraham, before he would bless him, saying unto him: Go forth out of thy country and from thy kinsfolk and from thy fathers house, into a land which I will show thee, and I will make thee increase into a great Nation & c. and yet of fasting St. Jerome puts in this parenthesis (which is harder,) And we may see farther into the difficulty thereof, by the rareness of them, that in these days practice the holy fast of lent, peradventure not so much for opposition unto the fast of the Catholics, ( for most do approve it) but for hardness thereof.
And deed fasting, if it be truly kept, that is to say, if our diet be very Scarce, course, & unpleasing to our taste and that we may feel a continual hunger and faintness (as Theodoretus saith it should be,) it is a very difficult thing to flesh and blood, especially if it be for forty days together, as this holy Fast of lent is, eating only one meal a day, with a small collation at night and nothing between meals.
This did our sweet Savior do for us in the wilderness, and a great deal more, fasting from all food what soever, till he was so hungry that the devil hoped he might be tempted to turn stones into bread by his only word, & so to discover his Godhead, there by to have hindered his passion & death; which by his fasting forty days he did not, because Elias and Moses, being mere men, had fasted so long.