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IHS First Sunday of Lent—10 March AD 2019 Ave Maria!

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Die Bibel in Bildern, 1860 Wikipedia

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.”[1]

It is significant that in both the Latin and Greek texts for today’s Gospel, the word for “Spirit” is capitalized: Spíritu—with a capital “S”—in Latin and Pneumatos (Πνεύματος)—with a capital “P”—in Greek.[2] The word is capitalized because it refers, not just to any spirit, but to the Holy Spirit—the Holy Ghost—the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is significant because it demonstrated that temptation is not something sinful—indeed this episode of temptation was arranged by God Himself.

Sometimes, God arranges or allows our temptation, as a means by which we can demonstrate our virtue and fidelity. I used to have to fly a lot—very often on Fridays—and it always seemed that the hot dogs roasting at the airport snack bar smelled better on Fridays—quite likely that was an opportunity for virtue—an opportunity to demonstrate fidelity to God by maintaining the traditional abstinence demanded by His Church. God is pleased and rewards us whenever we are faithful to Him in spite of sufferings and adversities.

Of course, there are also temptations to do evil—God permits them, although they usually arise from the machinations of the Devil, or of bad people around us, or simply from our own concupiscence. In such temptations, we are presented with something that is good, but in such a way that we would have to misuse it to enjoy it. All of God’s creations are good, but they are not all intended for my personal gratification. Everything that we enjoy must be subject to God’s Natural Law or to His positive Commandments.

The temptation of Jesus by the Devil was for our instruction and emulation. Notice that the Devil had nothing to give Jesus. If Jesus were hungry, He had to turn stones into bread for Himself—the Devil had no bread for him. Jesus was offered a form of self-glorification by summoning the angels to protect Him from a fall from the pinnacle of the Temple—but, again, the devil was offering nothing, for the angels undisputedly belonged to Jesus and not to the Devil, and Jesus had no reason to show off by demanding that His angels provide a mid-air rescue. And, likewise “all the kingdoms of the world” already belonged to Jesus as God, and the Devil had nothing to give Him.

It is no different with us. If we are tempted by physical desires, or by hope of some sort of glorification, or by the riches of the world, we must question whether or not any of these things can legitimately be given to us by anyone who does not have title to them. So often, the temptation to sin comes with the suggestion that we have a right to something which we do not.

We should also be sensitive to the needs of those less fortunate than we. I have the right to my things and the right to enjoy them—but someone else may be in greater need of them, and we should be willing to part with our surplus. At the end of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that in providing for the hungry, the sick, the naked and the thirsty, we are providing for Him and will be rewarded. But if we fail to do so, we will be told: “Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least [of My brethren], neither did you do it for Me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.”[3]

But getting back to temptation to do evil—we might ask ourselves how it can be avoided. Unquestionably, humility is at the heart of it. The proud man thinks he has greater rights than everyone around him. You can hear him thinking: “I am so important that I have a right to my neighbor’s property—I have the right to take his car, his wallet, his watch, his wife, and maybe even his life. And I owe him nothing, no matter how poor he is … no matter how rich I may be … for I am more important than others.”

Humility comes from the realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses—a realistic comparison of my rights and my neighbors’ rights. Humility comes from the veneration of Jesus Christ, who realistically is entitled to everything but who did with so little. And veneration of His Blessed Virgin Mother, who offered her Son for our salvation. Humility, therefore, is essential to resisting temptation.

When we are tempted, we should call upon Jesus and Mary, our guardian angel and our patron saints. Make good use of the Sacramentals—holy water, the Rosary, Scapular, and Miraculous Medal, to name a few. Always be conscious of the fact that everything we do is done in the Holy Presence of God—and that should make us very embarrassed to do anything sinful. Frequently consider the rewards of heaven and the pains of hell. Avoid those persons, places, and things which often cause us to sin. Make a frequent examination of conscience and a frequent Sacramental Confession of your sins.

Remember that temptation is not sin—and, indeed will be a source of great merit if we respond in accordance with God’s will.

“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.” and Jesus should be the inspiration for successfully overcoming our own temptations!


[1] Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11


[3] Cf. Matthew xxv: 45, 46

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