Thursday 23rd October 2014

Home » Uncategorized » Currently Reading:

Christ’s Temptations In The Desert

October 22, 2013 Uncategorized No Comments

By DON FIER

As we saw in last week’s column, Jesus freely chose to receive the “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3) from John the Baptist to mark the transition between His hidden life of thirty years and His public ministry of three years. “To inaugurate His public life and to anticipate the ‘Baptism’ of His death,” explains the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “He Who was without sin accepted to be numbered among sinners” (n. 105). Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, then, signified His acceptance of the mission given to Him by the Father to be “the ‘Servant’ wholly consecrated to the redemptive work that He will accomplish by the ‘baptism’ of His Passion” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 565).
The closing verses of St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism partly reveal a great mystery of our faith: the Most Holy Trinity. The evangelist tells us that immediately upon Christ’s emergence from the water, “the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased’” (Matt. 3:16-17). It is the Father who speaks, the Son who is baptized, and the Holy Spirit who descends like a dove. However, as pointed out by Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth (JoN), though the mystery of the Trinitarian God is beginning to emerge, “its depths can be fully developed only when Jesus’ journey is complete” (p. 23).
So what course of action does Jesus take at the conclusion of the baptismal scene, which Pope Benedict explains is “to be understood as a kind of formal investiture with the messianic office?” (JoN, p. 25). The three Synoptic Gospels unanimously “speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after His baptism by John” (CCC, n. 538).
As recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward He was hungry” (Matt. 4:1–2). In other words, led by the Holy Spirit, Christ withdraws to the desert for a time of spiritual preparation and renewal for the work of His messianic mission. He rigorously fasts and prays for forty days and then, in a weakened state, allows Himself to be tempted by the evil one.
Before analyzing the temptations of Jesus, at least two questions come to mind. First, is it significant that the time of preparation was forty days; secondly, how is it possible that the Son of God, true God and true man, could be subject to temptation? The number forty is symbolic in Sacred Scripture as a period of probation and testing. The Chosen People wandered in the wilderness for forty years as a time of testing (see Deut. 8:2) after the crossing of the Red Sea (which itself is a figure or type of Baptism). Moses was on Mt. Sinai “with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water” when obtaining the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 34:28). The prophet Elijah, strengthened by food and drink provided by an angel of God, was able to journey forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (see 1 Kings 19:8).
Further Old Testament parallels can be identified: the duration of the Great Flood during the time of Noah was forty days and forty nights (see Gen. 7:4, 17); the length of time for the twelve spies sent by Moses to reconnoiter the land of Canaan was forty days (see Num. 14:34); the people of Israel were subject to the Philistines for forty years after doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord (see Judges 13:1); and the Ninevites were given forty days to repent following the preaching of the prophet Jonah (see Jonah 3:4).
Moreover, the Church’s liturgical cycle recognizes the forty days of Jesus’ fast in the wilderness each year: “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC, n. 540).
Before we examine how it was possible for Christ to be tempted by the evil spirit, let us first define “temptation.” In his Modern Catholic Dictionary (MCD), Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, defines it as the “solicitation to sin, whether by persuasion or offering some pleasure. It may arise from the world, the flesh, or the devil” (p. 534). In biblical language, to tempt means to put someone to the test to reveal what is truly in his or her heart: “The Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 13:3). In both the Old and New Testaments, it is compared to the refining of metals:
“For Thou, O God, hast tested us; Thou hast tried us as silver is tried” (Psalm 66:10); “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tries hearts” (Prov. 17:3); “Now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
In the definition given above, three sources of temptation are listed: the flesh, the world, and the devil. For fallen mankind, the foundation for temptation is the flesh: our own weakness, disordered passions, and natural desires. As a direct consequence of the fall into original sin by our first parents, we enter this world subject to the threefold concupiscence as described by St. John: “The lust of the flesh [attraction of carnal satisfaction] and the lust of the eyes [attraction of wealth] and the pride of life [attraction of power and dominion]” (1 John 2:16).
In basic terms, then, as summarily defined by Fr. Hardon, “Temptations of the flesh are all the urges of concupiscence, whether carnal or spiritual, where man’s fallen nature has built-in tendencies to the seven capital sins [pride, greed or avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth]” (MCD, p. 534). As succinctly stated by St. James, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14).
Temptations posed by the world oftentimes make use of our personal weaknesses and inordinate desires by luring us to succumb to “the attractiveness of bad example and the psychological pressure to conform” (MCD, p. 534).
The plethora of external allurements and immoral images with which the modern media constantly flood our senses is intended to incite our passions. We are constantly bombarded with messages that entice us to “buy what we do not need with money that we do not have.” Likewise, human respect and the desire to be “politically correct” fall into this type of temptation. Scandal given by public figures and the bad example of those with whom one associates can also be powerful stimuli to lead the weak into sin.

Interior Senses

Lastly, the devil, content to be unknown (even to have his very existence denied), is always lurking. His method is “to encourage every form of avarice or selfishness, in order to lead one to pride, and through pride to all other sins” (MCD, p. 534). As St. Peter warns us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Although the evil one does not have the power to enter the citadel of the spiritual part of our soul (intellect and will) and force us to sin, he does have the power to touch our interior senses. For example, the devil is able to induce desolation, arouse the emotions, suggest images to the imagination, and so forth.
So how could Christ be tempted? Unlike us, He did not have a fallen human nature and was not subject to concupiscence. His sense appetites and passions were wholly under His dominion and could not rebel against right reason. So He could not be tempted from within but only from outside Himself — either by the world or by the devil. Like us in all things except sin, Christ had natural desires and corresponding emotions and that is precisely what the evil one sought to exploit by approaching Him in a state of human weakness from the hunger of His forty-day fast.
Next week, we will look at why it was fitting that Christ be tempted and unpack the Church’s teachings on the lessons to be learned from each of the three strategies employed by Satan.

+ + +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Catholic Synod: Gay Rights Groups ‘Disappointed’

Catholic gay rights groups say they are disappointed after bishops rejected proposals for wider acceptance of gay people, which had the Pope’s backing. The call to “accept and value” homosexuals was in a draft report, but failed to win the…Continue Reading

">

Cardinal Burke Confirms: Yes, Pope Has Demoted Me.

“Pope has done a lot of harm by not saying openly what his position is” Synod “designed to change Church’s teaching“ We post here for the record of current events all the quotes published by BuzzFeed from their interview with…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke’s Major Interview to Il Foglio on the Synod

The world likes Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke very little or not at all.  And , if it is possible, the Church likes him even less than does the world.  On the other hand, this 66-year-old American from Richland Center, Wisconsin,…Continue Reading

Pope Paul VI to be beatified Oct. 19, 2014

popep6

Pope Francis will officially declare Pope Paul VI Blessed on Sunday, Oct. 19, during the closing ‎Mass of the 3rd Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.  Pope Paul VI was cleared for ‎beatification when Pope Francis on May 9…Continue Reading

Church Militant . . . Synod On The Family

Houston, we have a problem

Angry over voter lawsuit, city demands to pick through sermons, other communications from pastors who aren’t involved Monday, October 13, 2014 HOUSTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have filed a motion in a Texas court to stop an attempt by…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Synod’s mid-term report “lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium”

Yesterday’s presentation of the mid-term report (Relatio post disceptationem) of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family was met with a remarkable level of interest among both Catholic and non-Catholic media outlets. The Vatican Radio site, in its introduction to…Continue Reading

Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod

The midterm report on the deliberations of the Synod on the Family has appeared and there is a fair amount of hysteria all around. John Thavis, a veteran Vatican reporter who should know better, has declared this statement “an earthquake,…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope At Santa Marta: The Limitless Language Of God’s Love

pope563

(Vatican Radio) “We cannot be Christians without the grace of the Holy Spirit” who gives us the strength to love, said Pope Francis at Mass Thursday morning at Santa Marta. Emer McCarthy reports: Pope Francis centered his homily on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the Apostle describes his experience of Jesus, an experience “that led him to…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church, The Body Of Christ

pope625

(Vatican Radio) Divisions, jealousies, misunderstandings and marginalization do not help the Church to grow as the Body of Christ, they shatter it into many pieces, they dismember it. Instead we should remember that we – as the Body of Christ – are called to appreciate the gifts and the quality of others in our communities. The Church as the Body…Continue Reading

Pope To Consistory: We Are Witnessing A Phenomenon Of Terrorism

In Briefing, Fr. Lombardi Says Interventions Reaffirmed That You Cannot Kill in the Name of God Vatican City, October 20, 2014 (Zenit.org) Deborah Castellano Lubov Dedicating this morning’s Consistory of Cardinals to the Middle East, and particularly the region’s Christians, Pope Francis has called on the international community to do their part as well as his fellow prelates to protect…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Middle East Without Christians Unthinkable

pope562

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the…Continue Reading

The Purpose Of Education

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK It struck me many times during the 30 years I spent teaching history at a public high school in the suburbs of New York City that my understanding of the purpose of an education was starkly different from that of the education establishment. The establishment stressed the importance of teaching students…Continue Reading

Musings And Concerns On The Synod

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish in Washington, D.C. This October 9 commentary is reprinted with his permission. The Wanderer went to press this week on October 16, prior to the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops’ final report and three days before the synod concluded…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic . . . Is The Church In The U.S. Unwittingly Helping To Promote The Secularist-Leftist Agenda?

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading

Our Judicial Dictatorship

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Do the states have the right to outlaw same-sex marriage? Not long ago the question would have been seen as absurd. For every state regarded homosexual acts as crimes. Moreover, the laws prohibiting same-sex marriage had all been enacted democratically, by statewide referenda, like Proposition 8 in California, or by Congress…Continue Reading

The Government And Freedom

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO This past week, FBI Director James Comey gave an interview to 60 Minutes during which he revealed a flawed understanding of personal freedom. He rightly distinguished what FBI agents do in their investigations of federal crimes from what the NSA does in its intelligence gathering, when the two federal agencies are…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Purgatory: A Place Of Mercy

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER The Feast Of All Souls Readings: Wisdom 3:1-9 Romans 5:5-11 John 6:37-40 Today we have the great privilege of praying in a special way for those who have died yet still await the fullness of life in Heaven. We remember today the holy souls who are in Purgatory. It is rare that we hear about Purgatory…Continue Reading

Pope’s Message To Bishop Of Avila . . . St. Teresa Tells Everyone: “Do Not Cease To Be Joyful!”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is a translation of the message that Pope Francis sent October 15 to the bishop of Avila, Spain, Jesus Garcia Burillo, on the occasion of the opening of the Teresian Jubilee Year for the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus, doctor of the Church. The saint’s liturgical memorial is observed October…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Being Exposed To Synod’s Deliberations Is Not For The Fainthearted

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out — he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). “Peering into freedom’s ideal law,” as St. James’ letter exhorts and as the fathers of…Continue Reading

Debunking The Myth… Sola Scriptura Is Unscriptural

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 Evidently, Jesus did not stay with the apostles and disciples for long after the Resurrection. He founded a Church, His Church. Now, did He found it as a visible Church, with authority to guide, teach, and sanctify the people? Or didn’t He? Either He did or He didn’t. It is one or the…Continue Reading

Divine Revelation: Gradual And Progressive

By DON FIER We left off last week reflecting on God’s motive for revealing Himself to us in a supernatural manner. In a word, His sole motive was that of boundless love for mankind. God gratuitously and unconditionally chose to “communicate His own divine life to the men He freely created, in order to adopt them as His sons in…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Ignatius Of Antioch

By CAROLE BRESLIN Who are the fathers of the Church? They were holy men of God; most were bishops, although some were priests and one man, St. Justin the Martyr, was a layman. They lived primarily in the first three centuries of Christianity, but one of the fathers died in 750, generally considered the end of the Church fathers’ era.…Continue Reading

What to Do If Your Boyfriend Wants You to Get an Abortion?

by Krisi Burton Brown | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/14 4:00 PM Washington, DC (LiveActionNews) — Note: This article is for any girl or woman who is feeling pressured into having an abortion. If you are a guy who is trying to find out how to stop an abortion, please see this article written for dads. 1.  Stand your…Continue Reading

It’s Time to Build Schools, from the Ground Up

February 13, 2014 by Anthony Esolen   It might have been worth repairing, if it had once been noble and beautiful, or at least conceived in an orderly way, for ordinary human purposes. But it wasn’t. It was constructed upon false principles. Its walls looked like those of a bad factory. It smelled like a warehouse. It could be terribly…Continue Reading

Why I am Pro-Life

February 4, 2014   Pro-Lifers   By Therese Recinella   Editor’s note. This tribute was posted on Therese Recinella’s Facebook account. She is graciously allowing us to reprint it in NRL News Today.   There are many things that I could say about my Dad, but what I want people to know is this: My parents faithfully raised 8 children…Continue Reading

Fathers . . . The Essential Role of the Father

Posted on February 10, 2014 by The Catholic Gentleman 13 Comments   Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view…Continue Reading

How Much is One Billion Dollars?

This article appeared in the March 20, 1941 issue of The Wanderer. (Well, 70 years later we can add 15 trillion into the example.) Here’s a simple and homely illustration of what one billion dollars amounts to: Suppose we take an imaginary boy, aged 15 years, and assign to him the task of counting one billion dollars in one-dollar bills.…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood

This article appeared in The Wanderer, April 3, 1941.  (WOW, Look what we have 70 years later.) A group which calls itself the National Committee for Planned Parenthood has begun a nationwide campaign to have the promotion of birth control included in State and national health programs. The committee—which, according to propaganda sheets reaching our desk has a branch in…Continue Reading

Questions of Non-Catholics . . . Answered by Father Richard Felix, O.S.B.

Reprinted from The Wanderer April 10, 1941 Why Does God allow us to be tempted? God allows us to be tempted so that we may prove our attachment to him and merit a higher place in heaven. Temptations are the lot of all men; they are the battle ground upon which heaven is won or lost. “The kingdom of heaven…Continue Reading