Christ's Temptations and OursREV. ROGER LANDRY
Lent is an annual spiritual boot camp the Church gives us so that we might train, yet again, to be victorious in this most important battle we'll ever fight.
He prayed and fasted for an incredible forty days, which obviously would have left Him physically weak and famished. It was at this moment that the Devil came to Him to tempt Him. Much like God the Father had once allowed Job to be tested, the same Father allowed His Son to be tempted. In the temptations Jesus suffered and later described to His disciples, the devil brought out in a pristine form the types of temptation that Christ would undergo in His public ministry and that each of us undergoes in our lives. By focusing on how Christ responded, we, too, can learn how to react to the various temptations we encounter.
The first temptation was aimed right at Jesus' tremendous hunger: "If you are
the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of Bread." When the Israelites
were in the desert, Satan successfully tempted them to grumble to God to feed
them (Ex 16:3ff). Satan was tempting Jesus to recapitulate the Israelites' lack
of trust in God. Jesus would have nothing of it. Satan, moreover, was trying to
tempt Jesus away from His mission. Jesus had come to save people, to feed their
most important hunger the hunger of their souls, and Satan was trying to
induce the Lord to become a baker rather than a Savior.
In the second temptation, the devil presented Jesus with a vision of all the kingdoms of the world and said to Him, "To You I will give their glory and all this authority, if You will worship me." Jesus was preparing to become the King of Kings, the Lord of heaven and earth, but that was going to happen through humility and the Cross. The devil was proposing a short cut, another way, an easier way. "I'll give it all to You if You fall down and worship me." The devil had gotten the Israelites in the desert to succumb to this temptation to worship him in a golden calf, rather than to trust in the God with whom Moses was speaking on the mountain. But he failed with Jesus, who said to him, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone."
This is the temptation to compromise our relationship with God, with the truth, with the principles that flow from God, in order to get ahead or to get what we want. Oftentimes the devil disguises these temptations in terms of the pursuit of power, privilege or prestige. Candidates for political office will give in to the temptation to compromise the principles of faith in order to get elected or re-elected. Students in school will cheat on exams to get a better grade. Those who are gifted with the ability to speak well will use their charm to "get away" with things or to seduce others. Those who are smart will succumb to the temptation to lord it over and dominate others rather than to serve them. It is a perennial temptation to seek to achieve something worldly by compromising our relationship with God and His moral law, to serve the "ruler of this world" rather than the one, true God. Jesus passed on to His disciples this second struggle He faced so that we could learn from Him that we are called to worship the Lord our God and serve Him alone.
the third temptation, the devil tried to tempt Jesus to test God the Father. He
even misused Sacred Scripture to do so: "Throw yourself down from [this pinnacle],
for it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning you, to protect you,'
and on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot
against a stone" (cf. Ps 91). The devil had succeeded in getting the Israelites
to test God while they were in the desert. He got them to complain that Moses
had brought them out into the desert to kill them and their children of thirst,
and they were about ready to kill Moses. They said, "Is the Lord among us or not?"
(Ex 17:1-7). Jesus didn't succumb to the same temptation. He replied, "It is written,
Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
last line of the gospel says that the Devil subjected Jesus to "every test" (v.
13), but Jesus never succumbed. In one of the most beautiful lines in Sacred Scripture,
the letter to the Hebrews tells us, "We do not have a high priest who is unable
to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who in every respect has been
tested as we are, yet never sinned" (Heb 4:15). The devil exists and he is trying
to tempt us in every way away from God, away from our mission, away from our vocation
and dignity. Jesus, however, knows what we're going through and has taught us
the way to overcome these temptations, by imitating Him and His responses. Lent
is a time when we are called to live these responses of Jesus.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote, "In order to be able to stand against
the wiles of the devil, put on the whole armor of God." Prayer, fasting and almsgiving
help us to do just that, because they help us to "put on Christ" (Rom 13:14),
Who himself prayed unceasingly, who fasted for 40 days, who gave Himself until
His last drop of blood. The discipline that Lent requires of us helps to keep
us vigilant against the devil, by conforming us to Christ in faith. St. Peter
instructed us, "Discipline yourselves and keep alert. The devil is prowling like
a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith"
(1 Pt 5:8). The devil exists and he is real. He seeks to devour us. But Christ
has overcome him and we will, too, provided that we put on God's armor, discipline
ourselves as a disciple should, and remain vigilant. Lent is an annual spiritual
boot camp the Church gives us so that we might train, yet again, to be victorious
in this most important battle we'll ever fight.
We adore You, O Christ,
and we praise You. Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world!
Fr. Roger J. Landry. "Christ's Temptations and Ours." Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Reprinted with permission of Fr. Roger J. Landry.
Father Roger J. Landry was ordained a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts by Bishop Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap. in 1999. After receiving a biology degree from Harvard College, Fr. Landry studied for the priesthood in Maryland, Toronto, and for several years in Rome. After his priestly ordination, Father returned to Rome to complete graduate work in Moral Theology and Bioethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. Father Landry is parochial administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, MA, and executive editor of The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River. His homilies are posted each week at saintanthonynewbedford.com.
© 2004 Fr. Roger J. Landry
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