Monday 5th December 2016

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

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Congress doubles budget for investigation of Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Congress voted to double the budget of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, meaning the panel will continue investigating Planned Parenthood and the sale of aborted baby body parts through 2016. Republicans…Continue Reading

Catholic church prepares to fight ‘grave evil’ of mass deportations

American leadership in the Catholic church laid low during the presidential election but San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy is now making clear that if President-elect Donald Trump makes good on campaign promises of mass deportations of unauthorized immigrants, the church is prepared to take…Continue Reading

Fake Catholic Groups and the “Catholic Spring” Emails

Beginning in 2007, orthodox Catholic writers including myself wrote dozens of articles in an attempt to expose the funding and duplicitousness of two fake Catholic groups: the OSF funded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United. (For…Continue Reading

Rubio on Castro Condolences: Obama’s Response ‘Pathetic’; My Catholic Faith Does Not Bind Me to Pope’s Foreign Policy Stances

(CNSNews.com) – Asked Sunday about Pope Francis’ expression of sorrow on the death of Fidel Castro, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that as a Catholic he believes in the Pope’s theological authority but his faith does not bind him when…Continue Reading

Head of Vatican Court: Cdl. Burke Could Be Stripped of Red Hat

The Dean of the Roman Rota, the Vatican’s top canonical court overseeing marriage, is issuing an ominous warning to Cdl. Raymond Burke that he may be stripped of his cardinalate for allegedly causing “grave scandal.” Speaking Tuesday at a lecture at the…Continue Reading

Cardinal Pell defends four cardinals for asking ‘significant’ questions

Cardinal George Pell has come to the support of the four cardinals who have submitted dubia about the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. Following an address to an audience in London, the Australian cardinal was asked whether he agreed with the…Continue Reading

Third bishop backs four Cardinals: I was ‘overwhelmed’ with similar questions

POLAND, November 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A third bishop has now publicly risen in defense of the four Cardinals who have been vilified by influential prelates after going public with their request that Pope Francis clarify whether or not his…Continue Reading

Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Dies at 90

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing…Continue Reading

The Pope Isn’t Talking, But His Cardinal Friends Are. And Accusing

ROME, November 23, 2016 – Not one word has come from the mouth of Pope Francis after four cardinals publicly asked him to resolve five major “doubts” raised by the most controversial passages of “Amoris Laetitia”: > “Seeking Clarity.” The…Continue Reading

Trump calls for national healing on Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON — After a long and bruising political campaign, President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday called in a video for the nation to “speak with one voice and one heart.” “It is my prayer, that on this Thanksgiving, we begin to heal our…Continue Reading

Critics need ‘conversion’ to accept Amoris Laetitia: Cardinal Cupich

“It’s going to take conversion, on the part of all of us, and examine ourselves to say, ‘What is it that the Church is teaching here that maybe I need to change, rather than saying that the Holy Father has…Continue Reading

Bishop Athanasius Schneider Issues Statement Supporting the Four Cardinals

schneider

The following is a statement from His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana. It is reproduced here in its entirety: “We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2…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 . . .

Catholic leaders: climate change on same level as abortion and death penalty

Opposition to abortion and the death penalty have long been cardinal beliefs for the Roman Catholic church, whose faithful make up about a quarter of all Americans. What if fighting climate change becomes an equally passionate issue in parishes nationwide? The foremost group of Catholic leaders in the U.S. is ramping up a campaign to do just that, urging priests and congregations from San Diego to Atlanta to think about global warming as a sanctity-of-life issue. Some Catholic experts have…Continue Reading

Pope approves decrees for causes for canonization

(Vatican Radio) On 1 December, the Holy Father Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In the course of the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorized the Congregation to promulgate decrees regarding several causes for canonization. The martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother, an American priest killed in Guatemala our of “hatred for the faith,” was officially recognized; as was the heroic virtue of Mother Catherine…Continue Reading

German Theologian and Book Author Strongly Comes to the Defense of the Four Cardinals

fourcards

Maike Hickson “This Is an Insult Toward Many Catholics!” is the trenchant title of an article written in defense of the Four Cardinals and published today on the Austrian Catholic news website, kath.net. The author of this text is Dr. Markus Büning, a German theologian, lawyer, book author, and father of a family. Several of his books have dealt with the question as to how one is to grow in holiness; one book deals with…Continue Reading

San Diego bishop to priests: Embrace ‘LGBT families’, give Communion to ‘remarried’

SAN DIEGO, California, November 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy is calling on his city’s priests to embrace “LGBT families,” and to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in certain cases. Following a much-hyped diocesan synod on the family last month, Bishop McElroy encouraged priests to publish a diocesan notice in their bulletins saying the Church will “assist those who are divorced and remarried and cannot receive an annulment to…Continue Reading

ACLU wants to force Catholic health care system to sterilize women

WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Monday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that asks the agency to reject an administrative complaint that the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed on behalf of a woman who insisted that a Catholic health care system sterilize her. ADF explains in the letter that federal law protects Ascension Health, the nation’s largest nonprofit health system and the world’s largest Catholic health system,…Continue Reading

Re-Sacralizing The Sacred

By DONALD DeMARCO One of my better students, who was enjoying a course I was teaching, asked me if I would like to speak to the members of his Bible study group. I felt honored and happily accepted his cordial invitation. The study group, made up exclusively of young adults, met in the home of…Continue Reading

The Grand Impostor

By DEACON JAMES H. TONER Proverbs tells us: “What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion” (15:23 Good News Bible). So it is with the word imposturous, which ideally captures the essence of the deceit which characterizes what masquerades as social ethics. If an impostor is someone who…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . How Law Is Actually Made

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Vermeule, Adrian. Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016. 254 pp. “Law’s Empire” of the subtitle is a reference to Ronald Dworkin’s influential 1986 treatise, Law’s Empire. Adrian Vermeule, a professor of law, acknowledges Dworkin to be one of the great legal scholars of…Continue Reading

A Film Review… “Believe”: Give Faith A Chance

By REY FLORES Christmastime is always a time for movie studios to try and cash in on holiday-themed films, hoping to catch some of that Christmas spirit from the public. Often times, Hollywood presents the usual junk with a secular Christmas twist that has nothing to do with the real purpose or meaning of Christmas.…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Church Teachings On Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES (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, “Euthanasia,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Conclusion “They are dictating how medicine should be practiced. You know the [Supreme] Court is…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

What Is Faith?… The Powers Of The Devil

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM What are the powers of the Devil? What can that creep do to us? Because of the general ignorance of Church teaching on the Devil that is commonplace in our days, people tend to fall into two opposite extremes: either to belittle or deny the Devil’s action or to be overanxious about it, fearing him…Continue Reading

Gifts Of The Holy Spirit — Counsel

By DON FIER “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor. 2:11-12). These words of St. Paul to the Corinthians give us a glimpse of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Fr. George Rutler is on the money again in his post-election bulletin column at St. Michael’s Church in New York City: “Considering how many crucial matters were at stake during the recent election, including the right to life and religious freedom, and the preponderant bias in the media and opinion polls, it did not seem melodramatic to hope…Continue Reading

He Is God, Let Him In!

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Third Sunday Of Advent (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 James 5:7-10 Matt. 11:2-11 In the Gospel reading today, Jesus asks the crowds who made the journey to hear St. John the Baptist what they went out into the desert to see. He gives them a few options: a reed swayed by the wind, someone dressed…Continue Reading

The Feast Of Christ The King… Pope Francis Says The Heart Of Christ Is Always Open

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the homily Pope Francis delivered November 20 for the closure of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Feast of Christ the King. (The Holy Father said that “even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us.” (The Holy…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Peter Fourier

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the Catholic Church, there are many examples throughout history of religious orders that have been reformed or have been in need of reform. After many years the members of religious orders tend to relax rules until they do not live much differently than the laity. It seems that discipline and fervor are closely related — without…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Catherine Of Alexandria

By CAROLE BRESLIN The list of saints is long, and includes both men and women from all walks of life and from all disciplines. For some saints, there is a plenitude of documents and accounts of their lives from which we can draw much information. For most of the saints from the early centuries of the Church, however, there is…Continue Reading