Resisting the true temptation

| Father Nathaniel Meyers | March 6, 2019 | 0 Comments

In high school, my best friend’s dad was a Protestant minister. While both my friend and I are true mutts with a variety of ethnic heritages, we nonetheless had at that time a great fondness for our Irish ancestry, and one can easily imagine how that played out: the Irish Catholic and the Irish Protestant, jabbing one another with a constant playfulness as to who was the real Irishman, the real Christian.

My friend would cite chapter and verse from the Bible as proof of his superiority, while I would make reference to our Catholic practices as proof of my superiority. For every Scripture quote he offered, I would have a pious devotion to counter. When Lent would roll around, I always took it as my time to shine — maybe I couldn’t find a passage in the Bible, but I could certainly fast my friend under the table!

Temptation of Christ

iStock/sedmak

Of course, my attitude toward Lent was far from what the Church actually wanted from me. Our prayer, fasting and almsgiving during this season is not about earthly glory, but rather about a renunciation of our worldly self.

The devil is exceptionally clever, as we see in St. Luke’s Gospel reading for March 10, because he can even take good practices and pervert them to fulfill his wicked designs. In tempting Christ, an initial glance has us see Satan offering the usual lure of earthly goods — bread to satisfy Christ’s hunger, the kingdoms of the earth and immortality.

However, upon careful consideration, we see the temptations are even more sinister than just encouraging Christ to gain ill-gotten goods, because the premise is that failing to do this will be a renunciation of Christ’s divine filiation. “If you are the Son of God,” Satan begins, “command this stone to become bread.”

The real temptation is not so much for Christ to break his fast, for example, but rather to use his power for selfish gain in order to prove he is indeed the Son of God.

One can see that, fundamentally, the devil is not interested in getting Christ to reap material benefits, but rather to distort and manipulate God’s favors and his status in God’s plan.

Back in high school, Satan similarly tempted me at Lent, and I failed to resist, for I used my status as a Catholic to exalt myself. The fasts that I embraced during those years were all certainly good ones in themselves, but my own heart impeded the spiritual fruit they could yield because I was busy trying to best my friend.

Without a sincere heart, our efforts in God’s service are of little benefit. As St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

It is clear that just simply saying our prayers, keeping our fast and giving our alms will not be enough to make this Lent truly fruitful; our heart must be invested in these actions for us to receive the saving power of Christ.

Father Meyers is pastor of St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo.


Sunday, March 10
First Sunday of Lent

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Category: Sunday Scriptures