Three Temptations of Christ
After being filled with the Holy Spirit Jesus entered the desert to discern his future path and to prepare himself for this mission. This mission was to give of himself, eventually giving his life on the Cross. We also have to go through a desert experience to clarify who we are, what we value, what our path will be, and ultimately how we will give up a life of selfishness to serve the good of all. Like Jesus we will be tempted to focus on our own wants and desires, but we must take courage in that Jesus has given us the strength to overcome temptation.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous if both he and we didn’t have to do or give up anything in life, and yet be able to have everything we want? The purpose of demonic temptation is to agitate us and through the arousal of our senses, tempt us to cave in to selfishness, to abandon virtue and to give in to self-indulgence, serving only our own selfish desires. Both Matthew and Luke recount the three ways that caving into selfishness leads us to sin.
Firstly, giving in to unchecked desires of the body (Turn this stone into bread) … meaning we can’t do whatever we want just because we will be giving our bodies some form of pleasurable sensation. For Jesus creating bread to satisfy his bodily appetite, he would have had to overturn the whole natural order and renounce his belief in divine providence. When our choices centre only on our getting pleasure, we open the door to all forms of pleasure seeking that will consume us. Further we abandon God who will provide for us when we are faithful.
A second temptation was about possessiveness and power (I will give you the kingdoms of the world). Taking something just because I want it –someone’s money, safe or even wife or husband –is obscene. Yet often we justify our behaviour saying that it doesn’t matter, it’s only for me. This might start at work. I could siphon off some of the money from the collection or you could accept cash jobs and not pay tax. Similarly, this form of sin leads also to obscenity –for example man’s desire to control and possess women (i.e. human trafficking).
Lastly the devil said: Throw yourself down and the angels will raise you up. The sin of pride consists in my thinking that I am the centre of the universe, something to be marvelled at, always right, and that people should congratulate me; people should recognize me –and naturally everything should revolve around me! We tend to be biased in the way we think of ourselves, and this temptation capitalizes on this flaw, encouraging us to see the world exclusively from our own selfish perspective and in terms of what we want.
So, sin is rooted in our desire for bodily pleasure, our greediness and a prideful of thinking of ourselves as better than others and that the world should revolve around me! These sins cause us to self-implode. As we close-up within ourselves the life of God within us dries up, we bear no fruit. On the other hand, Jesus teaches us how to give our life up for others.
As we listen to Jesus’ words during Mass: Take, eat, this is my body which will be given up for you, realize that this path of self-offering – of being given up, is the path to true life. Jesus has been victorious over the devil and has poured his Spirit into our hearts so we may overcome demonic temptation to selfishness and sin. This Lent let us enter into the desert with Jesus, praying for the strength to overcome temptation and to pursue the path of righteousness.