Tuesday 27th June 2017

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

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Hey Democrats: You Might Win More Elections If You’d Stop Killing Your Voters in the Womb

Democrats keep puzzling about why they are losing so many elections, but they do not seem to want to hear the answer that so many people are giving: abortion. Pro-life advocates — Republican, Democrat, independent and otherwise – have been…Continue Reading

Only Pope Francis can end the ‘apostasy’ his words have caused: Italian monsignor

ROME, Italy, June 21, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis could stem the “confusion and apostasy” now rampant in the Church among priests and bishops by “correcting” his own “ambiguous and erroneous words and acts,” said an Italian monsignor and former…Continue Reading

New Pontifical Academy of Life Appointee Supports Euthanasia by Starvation

An ethics study group for the Italian Jesuit magazine Aggiornamenti Sociali, headed by Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, a newly appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a theologian of the Northern Italian Theological Faculty of Milan, has joined Italian…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood wants to have a center in Reading High School; you can help stop it

ACTION: Planned Parenthood does not belong in our schools. Contact the Reading School Board at this link. Planned Parenthood is anything but helpful for teenagers, with all the ways the abortion giant has corrupted and confused them through explicit sexual advice,…Continue Reading

Fireworks at U.S. Bishops’ meeting as Francis-appointed Cardinals oppose permanent religious liberty committee

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, June 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted 132 to 53 today to approve the establishment of a permanent Standing Committee for Religious Liberty. Five bishops abstained from voting. The USCCB formed the Ad Hoc…Continue Reading

What can priests practically do to combat the porn epidemic?

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2017 / 02:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Online pornography is one of the fastest growing addictions in the United States, on par with cocaine and gambling. Once confined to the pages of a smuggled Playboy magazine, pornography…Continue Reading

Catholic community offers prayer, supplies for London fire victims

London, England, Jun 14, 2017 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Westminster offered their prayers and local parishes opened their doors to offer aid and supplies to those affected by a massive fire at an apartment complex…Continue Reading

Ohio tries again to ban abortions after heartbeat begins

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – On Tuesday, two Ohio representatives reintroduced legislation protecting babies with detectable heartbeats from abortion. Last year, Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed the measure when it came to his desk. The human heart begins…Continue Reading

Abortion clinic loses fight to silence LifeSite, but plans emergency appeal

TORONTO, June 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — LifeSiteNews won a victory in court today by successfully opposing a publication ban on the identities of abortionists targeting a pro-life activist. But the legal battle continues as the Crown in Ontario has signalled…Continue Reading

Incredible Story . . . Winner of ‘Romania’s Got Talent’ is a 14-year-old girl without arms and femurs

June 6, 2017 (Family News) — When she first showed up in front of the cameras at the live show, with her serene sweet face, she looked as a much smaller child. She is a short person because her legs…Continue Reading

Bring Back Christendom

By now you may have come across the controversy spun up over the weekend when Rep. Clay Higgins, the new congressman from Louisiana’s 3rd District, sent an outraged reaction to the London Bridge jihadist attacks over Facebook. The bulk of…Continue Reading

The Organization Every Parent Needs to Know About

Did you know there’s an organization of pediatricians and other child health professionals whose policies likely support your values as Catholic parents and grandparents? The American College of Pediatricians (not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics) actually…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  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 su
bscribe 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 150 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

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

New documentary challenges the secrecy and denial surrounding abortion

“HUSH”, a film about abortion and women’s health, is a professional, persuasive piece of investigative journalism, fronted by Punam Kumar Gill, who manages to combine a dogged determination to break the silence surrounding abortion with a sensitivity borne out of her own personal experience of loss. Abortion advocates claim to be very keen on talking about abortion. They want women to shout out their abortions, to express pride and joy in a procedure they increasingly…Continue Reading

James Martin Blasts Bishop Thomas Paprocki

On June 12, 2017, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, issued a Decree “Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues.” The Decree reaffirmed Catholic teaching that a marital union is only possible “between one man and one woman.” The Decree included the following directives: No member of the clergy or representative of the Diocese should assist or participate in a same-sex marriage; No Church property should be used to host same-sex…Continue Reading

Why Cardinal Sarah terrifies his critics

A growing crowd wants Cardinal Robert Sarah’s head on a platter. Open a liberal Catholic periodical and you are likely to find a call for the dismissal of the Guinean cardinal who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship: “It’s past time for [Pope Francis] to replace Cardinal Sarah” (Maureen Fiedler, National Catholic Reporter); “New wine might be needed at the Congregation for Divine Worship” (Christopher Lamb, the Tablet); “Curia officials who refuse to get with…Continue Reading

Illinois Catholic bishop decrees no Holy Communion, funerals for same-sex couples

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death. The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by w

Trump’s Nationalism Is Consistent With Catholic Social Doctrine

Leading American bishops have complained about the “harshness” of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and called for an end to deportation of aliens until the “broken” system can be fixed. Yet, despite this opposition from the Church’s hierarchy, Trump won 52% of the Catholic vote (to Hillary’s 45%), a historic margin for a Republican. How to explain this contradiction? Real simple. The laity get it better than the bishops. Trump’s nationalism is fully consistent with Catholic social…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Restoring The Sacred… St. Thomas More And The Defense Of Truth

By JAMES MONTI As Catholics in America participate in the annual Fortnight for Freedom to pray for the protection of religious liberty, the example of St. Thomas More will again be invoked as in years past, with the liturgical commemoration of his martyrdom on June 22 coming only a day after the beginning of the…Continue Reading

St. Teresa Of Calcutta… Hope For A Beleaguered World

By DONALD DeMARCO “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing, direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have curved…Continue Reading

Our Lady Of Fatima: The May Apparition

By FR. SEAN CONNOLLY (Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles on the one hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Fr. Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.) + + + 1917 was a tumultuous year that would forever change the face of the world. The…Continue Reading

Atheist Christian Haters Win In Court

NEW YORK — Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented June 20 on a First Amendment case that dealt a blow to religious liberty. The full text follows: + + + For 75 years, Bayview Park, in a Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood, has been home to a large cross. The 1941 wooden cross, erected by a New…Continue Reading

A Long History Of Leftist Hatred

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill., who aspired to end his life as a mass murderer of Republican congressmen, was a Donald Trump hater and a Bernie Sanders backer. Like many before him, Hodgkinson was a malevolent man of the hating and hard left. His planned atrocity failed because two Capitol…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World… The Tridentine Mass Grows In Appeal

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A recent appeal from a high-ranking enlisted member of the military for acceptance of exclusively Traditional priests, such as from the Fraternity of St. Peter, to serve as military chaplains was met with rejection. The subsequent headlines characterized the exchange as “Better No Chaplains Than Traditional Ones.” This reaction unfairly analyzes the practical effect of…Continue Reading

Our Savior And Redeemer… The Ascension And Pentecost

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Those people who believe in the Lutheran myth of “sola Scriptura” have a big problem to solve. They cannot explain the fact that Jesus spent forty days with His apostles, teaching them, reminding them of what He had taught them before, and preparing them for their mission, but there is absolutely nothing written in the…Continue Reading

Acts Of The Penitent — Contrition

By DON FIER As we briefly surveyed the history of the sacrament of Penance last week, we saw that significant changes in its outward form took place over the course of the centuries. In her first years, the Church experienced remarkable growth despite facing great persecution — it was a time of many martyrs. “The early Christians,” explains Dr. Alan…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I have heard it said that homosexual behavior is one of the sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance. Is that true and, if so, what are the others? — T.S., Arizona. A. In Holy Scripture there are four sins in this category, so called because in each case the victims of these sins cried out to the…Continue Reading

Whoever Receives You Receives Me

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a Romans 6:3-4, 8-12 Matt. 10:37-42 In the readings today we hear about our own dignity as Christian persons and also about the way we, as Christian people, are to treat others. We look first at the point of our own dignity. In the second…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Peter To Rot

By CAROLE BRESLIN Papua New Guinea is an island nation about 175 miles north of Queensland, Australia. The capital, Rabaul, is on the eastern tip of a smaller New Guinea island that sits just east of the main island. It is an island with a dark history of witchcraft, cannibalism, and violence against women. Into this bleak place, the light…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the history of the Church saints have commonly lived at the same time and worked together for the Kingdom of God. Pope St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John of Avila (of the Cross) and St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori and Blessed Gennaro Maria Sarnelli. Blessed Gennaro was…Continue Reading