Grace to you!
One of the strategies of Satan to tempt us away from what is right is presenting counterfeit as good. From the story of the first fall in Genesis 3, we see how the strategy of counterfeiting hit home to Eve and then to Adam. They saw the forbidden fruit, it looked really attractive and they could fantasize about the health it could bring. Hence, they fell for it.
There would be no serious temptation if, there were no perceived good in the object of the temptation. People don’t generally get tempted by things they don’t like. For instance, if you don’t like sweets, how would chocolate or ice cream be a temptation? On the other hand, if you love publicity, fame could be a serious temptation.
Something we have to be aware of, especially as it relates to our spiritual life, is that temptation occurs in those areas of our strengths, interests and things we are passionate about. If you are passionate about serving in your parish, be sure your greatest temptations will come from within the parish, and all the people and things associated with your passion for parochial ministry. What you love the most is the hub of the tempter’s plot. Many times a parent is heartbroken because the child he or she loves the most is their greatest challenge.
In the temptations of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-11), we can see this strategy of the devil played out like in a chase game. The first temptation regarded food because Jesus was hungry.
A hungry and thirsty person could easily be tempted to food and drink just like the vulnerable, unemployed or jobless, could be easily manipulated by the political class.
Nonetheless, there was something more in the first temptation of Jesus, which ties it to the second. Let’s pay attention to it. The key is in the tempter’s opening solicitation: “If you are the Son of God…” then follows (first temptation); “command these stones to become bread,” and in the second temptation, “throw yourself down…”
The temptation wasn’t so much about food. Food was the apparent good, which in this case, is the counterfeit. It wasn’t so much about the ability to fall and not be hurt as promised in Psalm 91:11. Jesus could do all those.
It was about Jesus establishing and stamping his identity as the Son of God in Satan’s terms, not in his Father’s terms. The temptation was the desire to prove a point when it wasn’t necessary. Hence, it was about pride.
Temptation to pride is rooted in every soul and we better see how the enemy plots it with the benign appearance of good when it isn’t. We hear this said over and over again: “Pride comes before a fall.” Jesus’ temptations connect pride with the desire for fame and wealth.
Good news: We see the answer to the sad reality of the fall of our first parents, leading to our vulnerabilities, in the Rise—the triumph of Jesus over the tempter, both at the beginning of his ministry and at the cross and resurrection. His triumph is our triumph too. Christ is true victory over sin and the devil.
Regarding dealing with the con master, the devil, I Peter 5:8 advises: “Be vigilant because your enemy is prowling round like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Beware. Temptation is real. Fight on by the grace of God, which Christ is and gives.
I find in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also called Confession, a means of this spiritual cleansing, awareness and strengthening in Christ. I see also Spiritual Direction as a wonderful resource for spiritual accountability regarding those passions capable of being counterfeited.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.