An Understanding of Temptation

2015-02-22 09.31.32

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.”

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19 Responses to An Understanding of Temptation

  1. toadspittle says:

    Surely, each of the Devil’s “temptations” of Christ is ludicrously childish?
    They would be, if offered to a human being…. But to God?
    ….No need to go into further details.


  2. kathleen says:

    “Surely, each of the Devil’s “temptations” of Christ is ludicrously childish?”

    Toad, Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the fallen world of Man, so sin was all around Him. The three temptations of Christ, symbolise those of the flesh (materialism or bodily desires), power (worldly gain), and thirdly the temptation to easy honour and glory (that as God was of course His due) and not that of scorn, derision and finally the Cross. (Satan even used dear St. Peter to propose this again to Him; you will remember Our Lord’s stern rebuff!)

    None of the temptations could touch Our Blessed Lord, naturally, but Satan tried to do so in His Human Nature all the same… for it would have been his greatest victory.
    We succumb sometimes to the “delights” Satan promises us with his temptations. The temptations of Jesus and His words to Satan can teach us how we too should resist these false promises from the Father of Lies.


  3. toadspittle says:

    ” None of the temptations could touch Our Blessed Lord, naturally, but Satan tried to do so in His Human Nature all the same… for it would have been his greatest victory.”

    And, before he began, Satan knew his “temptations” were doomed to fail.
    Not even close, and no cigar.
    You can surely understand why, to the objective mind, the whole episode seems an exercise in utter pointlessness and futility – can’t you, Kathleen?


  4. Roger says:

    Satan didn’t know!
    Satan doesn’t know because Satan has separated himself from God. This was Lucifers own Free Will choice. Satan is not God.
    However Our Lord (True God and True Man) and Our Lady (Without Original Sin) were Tempted as was Adam (Man) and Eve (Woman). How else could reparation be made for the Fall?
    Original Sin denied Man from Heaven. Our Lords Passion opened Heaven.
    Original Sin placed man outside of Heaven as is Satan. Satan’s Kingdom, the world , the flesh and the Devil.
    The gateway to Eternal Life is now Death (but through Our Lord).
    Satan’s Kingdom is Eternal Death.
    This brings Us to Fatima which stands before Us in Our own Days. Mans choice Obedience to Heaven (Consecration of Russia) or Obedience to Man’s sentiments and a wishy washy wooly genereic Consecration to placate Man.
    Our Lord didn’t need to Conquer Satan!! Satan is chained by God in Hell. Satan never had any Authority over the God man nor the Immaculate. Satan’s temptations vacous and empty since Satan has NO Authority except those whom of their own Free Will chose Him over God.


  5. toadspittle says:

    “Our Lord didn’t need to Conquer Satan!! Satan is chained by God in Hell.”

    All a bit needless, then – as you say, Rogebert.


  6. JabbaPapa says:

    Surely, each of the Devil’s “temptations” of Christ is ludicrously childish?

    Your “ludicrously” is ludicrous — “childish” is not a merely emotional/intellectual flaw before God or Satan, but the very source of our Fall or our Redemption.

    Just as we are as children in the Face of the Almighty, it is the childish desire of self that leads us all into ourselves, into the World, towards Satan, and away from God.

    It is no accident if the three Temptations of Christ form such a central part of the Catholic Initiation rites, as the Catechumens are called to abandon the sins of “maturity”, reject Satan, and be born anew in the waters of Baptism as children of God.


  7. JabbaPapa says:

    before he began, Satan knew his “temptations” were doomed to fail

    This is just a silly, callow and very shallow reading of some blatantly complex texts having multiple layers of significance.

    Would you try and read Shakespeare’sHamlet in such an obfuscating reductionist manner, and expect to be taken seriously ?

    Besides, you’re heretically attributing divine attributes to Satan, as that fallen Angel simply does not possess omniscience.


  8. ginnyfree says:

    No one can take you were you aren’t willing to go. God bless. Ginnyfree.


  9. ginnyfree says:

    P.S. Toad, the devil is so arrogant that he even tempted Christ. Never forget this most important of the points made by this interchange which is brought to the fore by our Lenten liturgical readings. Laughing at the devil does not protect one from him and if one takes no precautions to defend oneself against him, one will have none when he is attacked by him and will fall. Make no doubt about it – Satan is real and tempts folks all the time. If one practices the Lenten regular observances, then should actual spiritual combat become necessary, one will already know how to fast and pray. God bless. Ginnyfree.


  10. toadspittle says:

    All right, all. Toad’s an old silly.
    Course he doesn’t expect to be taken seriously, Jabba!

    Let’s consider another aspect of this tempting story: How do we know about it at all?
    Only one conclusion – Christ told somebody. Who? When? Why is there no account of this?
    Or is there?

    (Even Toad doesn’t think the Devil went round telling people how he’d got his come-uppance.)
    Cripes! Jabba’s dragged Hamlet into this! Who next? Yorick? Falstaff? The Second Murderer?


  11. toadspittle says:

    I wonder if we have the whole conversation in Luke?
    If so, Satan let some pertinent questions slip past.
    Satan: “Turn stones into bread.”
    Christ: “Man shall not live by bread alone.”
    Satan: “Did I ever suggest that he shall?”
    Christ: ‘I can turn stones into bread, if I want. And bread into flesh. And wine into blood. And water into wine. And ravens into writing desks.
    If I want. Right now, I don’t want. Later, maybe.”
    And so on. Make a good sort of Sartrean play, I think. But maybe not.


  12. kathleen says:


    Your presumptuousness in suggesting the Evangelist cut short or left out any part of the “conversation” between Our Lord and Satan is absolutely staggering!

    “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

    These profoundly meaningful words of Christ say all we need to know. They have spoken volumes and volumes to countless faithful Christians throughout the centuries on how we should make use of the material gifts God has given to us for our existence.
    One could even say that in our days of godless Consumerism and Materialism, and the over-riding desire to feed the “body” and ignore the “soul”, they are more pertinent than ever.


  13. toadspittle says:

    Yes, but where did Luke get the story from, Kathleen?

    It seems to be a “one-source” story, which no reputable newspaper would print. (Except that there seem to be few or none reputable newspapers any more. In English anyway.)
    Doesn’t that fact of where the account came from disturb you or anyone on here?
    Wouldn’t Christ’s own telling of His brush with Satan merit some sort of mention in itself?
    Or is there such a story, somewhere? Do you even see what I’m getting at?


  14. Roger says:

    Genesis is the Back ground. This is the Direct Face to Face between The serpent(Satan) and the God Man.
    The Forty Days and the Forty years in the desert (Moses) and the Promised Land.
    The Promised Land = HEAVEN.
    We are born naked and leave the world naked!
    Then its a simply choice Heaven of Hell.
    Here are the stark realities and choices faced by ever Man.
    Each man chooses for Eternity between these two protaganists. The Temptation and the forty days fasting is for Us to choose between the God Man and or Satan. Will this be fasting and prayer and the Way of the Cross – the Road to Heaven? Or the Way of Rational Fallen Man with His material worldly Science – the Road to Hell?


  15. GC says:

    Toad, don’t you think you should read up even a minimal amount on Gospel literature before getting on here with all this stuff?

    I mean, really.


  16. toadspittle says:

    Where would be the fun in that, GC?
    Besides, I’m just naturally nosey.
    I like to hear people’s answers.
    Don’t you?
    So why don’t you, for example, just shrug your shoulders and tell us how, when, and where – Luke got his story?
    I’m genuinely interested to know. It’s only what I’d ask my reporters. With good reason.
    The usual flannel and waffle from Rogebert, but no answer.
    But are we downhearted? No, Not yet, anyway.
    This is a lot of work, you know. Unpaid, too.
    (Stop whining, Toad.)


  17. kathleen says:


    Read what I said about the assurance we have of the truthfulness of Sacred Scripture on the other thread.

    Where did St. Luke get his story?
    He was one of Our Lord’s first disciples, not one of the Apostles, but we have evidence that he knew the Apostles. He also knew the Blessed Virgin Mary – hence his faithful telling of the Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Christ and early life. He painted an icon of Our Lady… did you know that? (We had a post on CP&S about it once.)

    Look at the first beginnings of the Church and see how reliable is the story of our salvation passed down to us from the Apostles and earliest followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


  18. toadspittle says:

    Yes, but if was the Virgin Mary who told Luke the Christ and Satan story, why didn’t he think that worth mentioning, Kathleen? Give it extra verisimilitude?
    I’d like to see the icon. Where can it be seen?
    Didn’t know there were any contemporary portraits of her.
    I’d have thought it would be the most famous portrait in the world.
    ….Wonder why it isn’t?


  19. JabbaPapa says:

    Toad, it is blatantly obvious that the Evangelist can only have been told that story, directly or indirectly, by the Christ.

    … and please stop posturing with this “single source” nonsense ; otherwise you can go ahead and dump Homer, most of Caesar, the Beowulf, the Canterbury Tales, and virtually our entire culture as if Literature and History needed to obey the rules of some fool with a test tube.


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