“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.”
While in desert Jesus overcame three temptations from our Adversary. The first one was, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” – this was a temptation directed at the disorder of the body. The second one was, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me” – this was a temptation directed at the the disorder of the mind. The last one was, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone” – this was a temptation directed at the disorder of the soul.
The three parts of man and woman are their nature (mind/heart), body, and soul. It is these three parts that make us human beings; that is to say that, we do not merely have a mind, a body, and a soul, rather, we are mind, body, and soul. From the outset of creation, we were consubstantial beings; meaning that our three parts worked in perfect harmony with each other. It was the consequence of ‘humanities’ Original Sin that brought cacophony (disordered) to what was symphonic (ordered). The first temptation of Eve and Adam was a military tactic by our Adversary to divide and to conquer. This is how Satan works to attack our parts; thereby, not only pitting self against self, but also self against God, whose grace is unceasingly working to make our three parts whole in His Spirit.
There are three keys to resisting temptation that Jesus offers us to imitate through His successful refute of Satan’s attack. They are 1. Identify, 2. Filter, and 3. React. These are the three things we must unceasingly do throughout the day, even in the midnight hours. Our Adversary never rests. He never tires of trying to destroy us. Therefore, we must never tire in resisting Him with the help of God’s grace.
The first step in resisting temptation is to identify it for what it is. Whether it is a person, place, or thing – identify it and react accordingly.
- Jesus identifies the temptation to be coming from the devil. Because Jesus is God, He had clear knowledge of evil. Likewise, our ability to consistently discern and identify evil hinges on our relationship with the Holy Spirit within us. It is that very holiness within us that will always be repulsed by evil. This repulsion – this rejection of what hates God not only works through the mind when we reject what we perceive to be a lie, but it also works through the body when we reject what we perceive through our senses to be evil. Perhaps you’ve had a moment in your life when the hairs of your body raised when you came in contact with someone, or you were somewhere and your body was overcome with an inky sense of evil. Those were instances of the Holy Spirit helping you to identify the adversary or things of the adversary.
Identification of the enemy is a military tactic. The famous order at Bunker Hill during the American Resolution was “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”, had more to do with when their attack would have the most effect, than it had to do with knowing that the Brits were their enemy, but the broad principle is relative here. That, when our adversary exposes himself and allows you to identify himself, do not lie to yourself or desire him to be anyone other than who he is. I’ve known countless women who allow men to remain in their life long after they’ve realized who that man is and what he is about. If you went to the door of your house and someone was standing outside of it with a gun and told you that they wanted to come inside and kill you and your family, would you let him in? Or would you slam the door, call the police, shelter your family, and pray? Some of you might slam the door, find your gun, call the police, and then pray for the assailant to survive after you shoot him. There are always people who Satan is using to come into our life to destroy it. They probably don’t have a gun and probably don’t know they are being used for evil. It’s our responsibility to identify these people, places, and objects of evil in our life and react accordingly to them.
The second step to resist temptation is to filter everything through the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church
- Jesus IS the Truth; therefore, it wasn’t difficult for Him to filter out lies. Likewise, our ability to consistently discern what is true and what is a lie hinges on our relationship with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth.
Clearly, a great concern about the world today is that there are so many forms of communication and media. They are abundant, very accessible, and completely unfiltered. Anyone can say anything at anytime. Truth and lie has become one and the same for those outside of Christ. The world doesn’t believe in axioms, expect the axiom that truth is relative. The last authoritative and consistent filter of truth left in the world is the teachings of the Catholic Church; drawn from sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition, and the magisterium. Outside of that Divine organ what is true and what is not always changes to accommodate the latest sin that has become socially acceptable.
The good news is that Christ Jesus established one community of Churches through His Apostles nearly two thousand years ago that has never failed to cling to and to teach what was handed down to it. Every other institution on earth has and will continue to accommodate, placate, and excuse immorality and lies. The Catholic Church is the last institution on earth to stand against evil, because that is what it was created to do. Inasmuch Catholics will continue the sin, the teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals will never accommodate, placate, or excuse it. Nor will Satan ever prevail against the Catholic Church as he has ever other institution; otherwise Jesus Himself was a liar when He promised that the “. . . the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it [the Church established on Peter]” (Matthew 16:18)
The third step to resist temptation is to react to it by drawing upon Christ Jesus
- Jesus reacted to Satan’s temptation by drawing upon His own words. Likewise, our ability to successfully respond to temptation hinges on our trust in Christ Jesus our Lord, whom we can do nothing without.
In reflecting upon Jesus’ temptation in the desert you’ll often hear protestant preachers talk about how we should recite the ‘Word of God’ (the Bible) when we are being tempted. In this regard, they encourage their flock to memorize verses of Scripture so that they will be able to respond when the tests come. I fully agree that when we are tempted that we must cling to and call upon the Word of God, but for Catholics the Word God isn’t a book or a paper bound together. To the contrary, for us the Word of God is a Person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He is the only thing that the Bible calls the Word of God. Wherever Christ Jesus is, there too is the Word of God.
Being prayerfully immersed in our Lord is always the best pre-defense against temptations. In fact, it is a temptation from Satan for you not to prayerfully immerse yourself in the Lord at all times. When being tempted in the moment, don’t over complicate the issue; just simply cry out for help. It could be as simple as saying ‘Help me Jesus’. And as soon as you call upon His name the Lord will immediately respond to your invitation and help you. Don’t be surprised if after you call on Him that the test intensifies. Satan is just doing his job. If he intensities the temptation, then you intensify your calling upon the Lord for help.
As you reflect upon the readings at Mass today, here are some questions for you to consider:
- What are those temptations that always seem to find their way into your daily choices? What tools do you use to attempt to consistently say ‘no’ to them?
- The Catholic faith has a wealth of weapons to use in spiritual battle. What are some of your favorite weapons?
- The areas in which we are tempted most are oftentimes that areas in which we have not fully and consistently invited Jesus in. Is that true for you as well?
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”
No evil shall befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your tent,
For to his angels he has given command about you,
that they guard you in all your ways.
Upon their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the asp and the viper;
you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.
Because he clings to me, I will deliver him;
I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in distress;
I will deliver him and glorify him.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.