In Times of Temptation

Source: District of Great Britain

Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him. (Mt 4:10-11)


The Temptation of Jesus

The Gospel today, my dear brethren, tells of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Our Lord, of course, could not have succumbed to the temptation because He is impeccable which means that He cannot sin. He is impeccable because the principle of all His action is the Divine Word: the person who acted was God and God cannot sin - otherwise He would not be God.

So why did Jesus allow Himself to be tempted? First of all, to show forth His humanity. By uniting himself hypostatically to human nature, Our Lord took upon Himself all those weaknesses of human nature that did not imply sin. These are called general weaknesses (hunger, thirst, weariness, feeling pain and mortality). He did not take upon Himself any moral or intellectual imperfections (He had no vices, possessed all knowledge and had perfect reason).

The second reason why He allowed Himself to be tempted was to heighten the effect of His penance in the desert. By being presented with food after fasting for 40 days, his suffering was made more acute. He did this to merit our redemption.

The third reason why He allowed Himself to be tempted was to offer us an example of how we should behave in times of temptation.

When We Face Temptation

When we are tempted, first of all, we must remember that to be tempted (unless through negligence or design) is not in itself sinful. We only sin if we consent to sin. When we are tempted, we must also follow the example of Jesus in the desert. The remedy to temptation is simple: prayer and penance.

First Remedy: Prayer

When we are tempted with any sin (uncharitable thoughts, neglect of duty, impurity in thought or deed etc.) our first reaction must be so seek for help. In ourselves, we are weak and pathetic creatures and we cannot resist the temptation of the eyes, the flesh or the spirit without divine help. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 Jn 2:16)

  • Our immediate line of defence should be an invocation - perhaps something like “Jesus mercy, Mary help” or “Mary, by thy Immaculate Conception, make my body pure and my soul holy”. We should then remove ourselves from the circumstance of our temptation. If this is not possible, then we should talk frankly to Our Lord, "Dear Lord, please know that I do not give my consent to this temptation. I do not give consent. Please remove this temptation if it is Thy will or give me the grace to resist."
  • Our main and continuous defence should be a frequentation of the sacraments. Remember that the combat, whether natural or preternatural, requires supernatural help.

Second Remedy: Penance

As for the second remedy, it is penance. We should practice penance at all times but especially in the forty days of Lent the Church sets aside for penance. Penance is an act by which we:

  • expiate our sins by offering a gift to God of some suffering (physical or mental),
  • strengthen the will for our perpetual struggle with our wayward passions and 
  • conform ourselves to Christ in His Passion to draw down the merits He won on Calvary for own good and the good of the entire Mystical Body of Christ.

But for our penance to be fruitful, first it must be founded on humility. When we are humble we see ourselves as we really are before God - our qualities, our defects and our sins. Penance without humility turns us into monsters. Penance without humility is not only the most effective way of making us even more proud, it is a cause of distress to those around us and can drive others to sin too. For example, when we see penance without humility in our neighbour, we scream within ourselves HYPOCRITE! And more often than not we start comparing ourselves to our neighbour and drag ourselves down with him.

For penance to be fruitful, it must also be for the love of God. This highest of motives actually renders penance sweet to the penitent. That penance becomes sweet might seem odd, but if, for example, we accompany each penitential act with an imaginary act of love towards Our Lord, such as shedding tears and anointing His feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee or wiping His face on the road to Calvary, or kissing the Cross upon which He hangs, the consolation that was St. Mary Magdalene's and St. Veronica's becomes our own when we perform penance.

In this time of Lent, therefore, let us love Our Dear Lord enough to wish to be one with Him in His joy and in His suffering. We are made to be united with Him in heaven, but that union begins in the face of temptation here on earth. May the Blessed Virgin Mary procure for us the grace in times of temptation to imitate her Son so that our prayers and penances be to us our defence, our gift, our consolation and a sign of our heavenly predestination. Amen.