We had no ‘Lectio Divina’ on the Mass readings this past Sunday, but the Gospel of the three Temptations of Jesus is one that is very important for us to understand as we commence our Lenten journey towards Holy Week. By God’s grace I came across this marvellous Angelus address of Pope Benedict XVI from 2010 for the first Sunday of Lent that gives us some clear insights:
“The Evangelist St. Luke recounts that after receiving Baptism from John, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for 40 days in the wilderness, tempted by the Devil. There is a clear insistence on the fact that the temptations were not just an incident on the way, but rather the consequence of Jesus’ decision to carry out the mission entrusted to Him by the Father, to live to the very end of His reality as the Beloved Son Who trusts totally in Him. Christ came into the World to set us free from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of planning our lives leaving God out. He did not do so with loud proclamations but rather by fighting the Tempter himself until the Cross. This example applies to everyone. The World is improved by starting with oneself, changing with God’s grace, everything in one’s life that is not going well.
The first of the three temptations to which Satan subjects Jesus originates in hunger, that is in material need: “If you are the Son of God, command the stone to become bread”. But Jesus responds with Sacred Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Then the Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth and says: “All this will be Yours if, prostrating Yourself, you worship me.” This is the deception of power and an attempt which Jesus was to unmask and reject: “You shall worship the Lord you God, and Him only shall you serve.” Not adoration of power, but only of God, of Truth and Love. Lastly the Tempter suggests to Jesus that he work a spectacular miracle, that He throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and let the Angels save Him, so that everyone might believe in Him. However, Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test. We cannot do an experiment at which God has to respond and show us that He is God; we must believe in Him. We should not make God the substance of our experiment. Still referring to Sacred Scripture, Jesus puts the only authentic criterion, obedience, conformity to God’s will, which is the foundation of our existence, before human criterion. This is also a fundamental teaching for us: if we carry God’s Word in our minds and hearts; if it enters our lives; if we trust in God, we can reject every kind of deception by the Tempter.”
Temptation could not touch the Son of God, but Man, in his concupiscence since the Fall, is subject to temptation to sin. With a ‘hat tip’ to Chalcedon (from AATW) I reproduce these sage words from St Pope Gregory on how temptation affects us:
“Gregory the Great reminds us that there are three stages to temptation: suggestion; delight; and consent. In temptation we normally fall through delight at what is offered us, and then we consent; for things begotten of the sin of the flesh we bear within us that through which we suffer conflict. But God, incarnte from the Virgin’s womb, came into the fallen world without sin, and suffered, therefore, no conflict within himself. He could be tempted by the suggestion, but the delight of sin could not touch his mind, and so all these temptations were from outside, from Satan, and not from within his nature.”
And finally, from the Imitation of Christ Chapter XIII, 5, comes this advice:
“For first cometh to the mind the simple suggestion, then the strong imagination, afterwards pleasure, evil affection, assent. And so little by little the enemy entereth in altogether, because he was not resisted at the beginning. And the longer a man delayeth his resistance, the weaker he groweth, and the stronger groweth the enemy against him.”