These temptations of Jesus teach us some important things.
One: the Devil is real. I know there’s been some confusion about that since Vatican II, but this is a bit strange given that Vatican II identifies the mission of the Church as the liberation of man from the power of the devil: Through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man. (Lumen Gentium 17) The devil is real and he does all he can to destroy God’s creation the Church – and you. Even Jesus Christ believes in the devil’s reality and in resisting him – as we see today.
Two: you’re going to get tempted. It’s no good getting from one day to the next on the hope you won’t be tempted. Even Christ was tempted by Satan – so will you always be. But there is good news in this – inasmuch that you can be assured that being tempted does not make you a bad person. Again – even the Son was tempted.
Third: the devil is going to tempt us on the points where we are the weakest. We see this in the temptation of Jesus Christ today. Now to be clear – Jesus had no weak points as far as sin or evil are concerned. And his body, being the incarnate Son of God, was a perfect one. However it does not mean that Jesus could not feel lonely – as one understandably would after being in the wilderness forty days. Or that he wouldn’t feel hungry. As the text says: During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. So the devil will play on even our good natural human experiences in order to suck us into being filthy and separated from God like him.
Finally: it is possible to beat temptation. You have all the natural and supernatural help you need. We never have to sin – it is always unnecessary. So:
- Run away. Don’t sit there being tempted by the sin:- move; change the activity you’re doing; change the atmosphere; above all – run into God’s hands.
- Be aware of your weaknesses. St Ignatius teaches us that, as a master strategist, the devil works on us based on what our hurts and sensitivities are, and how we normally react when one of them is pushed.
- Stay away from anything like palm-reading, fortune-telling, magic, foreign gods, star signs, unblessed incense, yoga, tai-chi, pornography and drugs. Doing these things is opening the door of your heart, life and family to the work of Satan. If you’ve done any of these things, go to confession this week.
- Eat properly. Get your exercise. Sleep properly. Plan your day. Have a regular rule of life. Not getting these is at the root of many spiritual problems.
- Have clear relationships and clear limits. The criteria of a good friend is someone who leads you closer to God. Limit your time with those who don’t. If you are going out with someone, have clear ground rules about the limits of the relationship. For example, unless you’re engaged – just hold hands.
- Find a well formed person, maybe a priest, who can accompany you.
- Fast and give alms regularly: don’t go too far, but these are powerful helps.
- Pray daily, go to mass weekly, confess monthly: these are strong protections.