Archive for the ‘Satan’ Category

Reflections on Martyrdom

December 29, 2016

I have not seen and cannot recommend the recently-released Martin Scorsese film Silence, but reviewers describe it as haunting and unsettling for believers and non-believers alike. It is set in Japan during a fierce persecution of Roman Catholics in the mid-1600’s. In one scene, a Jesuit missionary is forced to watch arrested Japanese Christians be cruelly tortured before him. The young priest is told that these men and women’s sufferings will cease if he would only step on an image of Christ and renounce his faith. What does Jesus want his followers to do if faced with such a choice?

A person might think there is little harm done in trampling the crude likeness of someone, or by insincerely mouthing a few words, but Jesus told his disciples, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” (1) At the very start of his ministry it seems that Jesus himself was confronted with the film’s test; the temptation to deny God so that human suffering would end.

After his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” (2) But Jesus firmly refused. Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot 1886-1894.What was so wicked about the devil’s suggestion? What could be wrong with alleviating hunger? Imagine if Jesus had relented, waving his hand over a nearby brown stone and then biting through its soft crust. Then the devil could accuse him, “So, you have provided food for yourself—how can you now refuse to wield your power to feed the whole world!?” Satan also pressured Jesus to insist that the Father spare him from death: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down [from this great height]…” But Jesus again refused. The tempter preferred Jesus to be a messiah who would give people an abundance of material wealth and safety while leaving them in their sins, separated from God forever.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” Jesus accepted suffering with and alongside us as a crucified savior-king and never surrendered to the temptation of becoming an earthly ruler who had denied God and bowed to Satan. Jesus Christ understood that he would be Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” as St. John the Baptist proclaimed him. (3) Even as his desert tempter invited him to end all earthly hardship, Jesus in some sense foresaw the multitude of suffering martyrs who would follow his path after him. Jesus did not waiver. Jesus refused to capitulate to evil for this world’s fleeting, lesser goods because was not the will of God, his Father.

These reflections came to mind last week on the December 28th Feast of the Holy Innocents, those little ones who died in place of Jesus Christ. When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. (4) Modern biblical scholars estimate Bethlehem’s population was around 1,000 at that time, which means that up to about twenty infants were slain. (5)

These babies and toddlers have been venerated in the Church since the first century.  Early Church Fathers, including St. Irenaeus of Lyon and St. Augustine, and the liturgical tradition of the Church have celebrated them as saints and martyrs. (6) This pair of titles is remarkable for those “who, though still unable to profess [Jesus] in speech, were crowned with heavenly grace on account of his birth.” (7) None of these young Jewish boys were baptized or made a conscious decision to die for Jesus, but they were all saved through Christ.

Jesus spoke of the importance of baptism for salvation, for instance saying, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (8) Yet he also said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (9) The Church, lacking an explicit teaching from Christ about children who die unbaptized, “can only entrust them to the [great] mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them.” (10) Perhaps the Lord, knowing his own provisions for their salvation, has kept us in our uncertainty lest we employ the twisted logic of Herod, Pharaoh, or Pilate to rationalize the intentional killing of little ones. In any case, it has been the firm conviction and long tradition of Christ’s Catholic Church that the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem now dwell with him in Heaven.

Jesus Christ and his martyrs, from Bethlehem to Japan, reveal and witness to strengthening truths: That this life, however long or short, is not all that there is. That God can bring salvation out of evil, even from crimes and disasters that break our hearts and surpass our understanding. And the martyrs affirm that, as Charles Spurgeon said, “Suffering is better than sinning. There is more evil in a drop of sin than in an ocean of affliction. Better [to] burn for Christ, than [to] turn from Christ.” Whatever terrible crosses may afflict us or those we love we can remember that our crucified Lord has suffered likewise and is always with us. Jesus tells us, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (11)

26-martyrs-of-japan

A memorial to “The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan,” a group of Roman Catholics executed by crucifixion on February 5, 1597 at Nagasaki. Their feast day (i.e., St. Paul Miki and companions) is February 6th.

Footnotes:
(1) –  Matthew 10:32.
(2) –  Matthew 4:1-11.
(3) –  Isaiah 52:13-53:12, John 1:29 & 1:36.
(4) –  Matthew 2:16.
(5) – Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, pp.104–121.
Donald A. Hagner, World Biblical Commentary, Matthew 1–13, pg.37.
“Holy Innocents” entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia. 
(6) – Hugo H. Hoever, Lives of the Saints, pg.525.
(7) –  Opening Mass Prayer for The Feast of the Holy Innocents.
(8) –  Mark 16:16.
(9) –  Matthew 19:14.
(10) – Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1261.
(11) – John 16:33.

 

Catholic Teachings About The End Times

November 10, 2016

Catechism of the Catholic Church #668-679

I.  HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY
Christ already reigns through the Church…

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, 1450-1463.        “Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,” for the Father “has put all things under his feet.” Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are “set forth” and transcendently fulfilled.

        As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body. Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church. The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. “The kingdom of Christ [is] already present in mystery,” “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom.”

        Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at “the last hour.” “Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect.” Christ’s kingdom already manifests its presence through the miraculous signs that attend its proclamation by the Church.

…until all things are subjected to him.

      Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the king’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover. Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.” That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!”

        Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love, & peace. According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.

The glorious advent of Christ, Israel’s hope

        Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent, even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed.”

        The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel,” for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles,” will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” in which “God may be all in all.” 

The Church’s ultimate trial

The Devil Tempting a Young Woman by André Jacques Victor Orsel, 1832.

        Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

      The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.

        The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

II. TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

The Resurrection by El Greco, Madrid, 1596-1600.      Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned. Our attitude about our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. On the last day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

        Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son.” Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.

Who is St. Michael the Archangel?

November 12, 2015

(Based on his 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia entry)

St. Michael is one of the principal angels. His name (translated from Hebrew, “Who is like God?“) is the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the devil and his followers. His name is recorded four times in Scripture:

Daniel 10 — Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: “The Angel of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me … and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me … and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince.

Daniel 12 — An angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who stands for the children of your people.

Jude 1 — St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses: “[The archangel Michael] did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon [Satan] but said, ‘May the Lord rebuke you!’”

Revelation 12 — St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.

Following these Scriptural passages, Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:

(1)  To fight against Satan.

(2)  To be the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.

(3)  To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.

(4)  To call men’s souls away from earth and bring their souls to judgment.

Regarding his rank in the celestial hierarchy opinions vary; St. Basil and other Greek Fathers place St. Michael over all the angels; they say he is called “archangel” because he is the prince of the other angels; others believe that he is the prince of the seraphim, the first of the nine angelic orders. But, according to St. Thomas Aquinas he is the prince of the last and lowest choir, the angels.

Thoughts About FOX’s “Lucifer”

August 7, 2015

So the FOX network plans to launch this new show in 2016:

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but previews for movies and TV shows these days tell us plenty about what to expect. Based on this trailer and its synopsis, I’d like to share my first thoughts about FOX’s Lucifer.

What “Lucifer” Gets Right
Giving Their Devil His Due

Our first encounter with FOX’s Lucifer is in a form such as we should expect him to appear. No horns, tail, or pitchfork. Nothing in his appearance to make us flee from him in horror. He’s attractive, wealthy, well dressed, and speaks with sophistication. He drives through the night self-satisfied, solitary, and yet pleased to have others serve him and line up eagerly at his door. His popular club is named “Lux” (Latin for “Light.”) “And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) He draws many to himself by means of human sensuality.

His name, “Lucifer Morningstar,” is drawn from Isaiah 14:12.
Church Fathers wrote that “Lucifer” was never the devil’s proper (or “God-given”) name but that it signifies the glorious state from which he fell. However, I give the show creators credit for a pretty good name choice.

FOX’s Lucifer is a denouncer, reviling “this human stain” and “your corrupt little organization.” This is in keeping with him being ‘the accuser of the brethren, who night and day accuses them before God’ (Revelation 12:10) as he did with righteous Job. (Job 1:9-11, 2:4-5) In fact, his most well-known titles highlight this trait: “Devil” comes from the Greek word for “Slanderer,” while “Satan” is Hebrew for “Adversary” or “Accuser.”

Lucifer is willing to transgress laws whenever it benefits him. Perhaps this is why FOX’s Lucifer will premiere in 2016 driving with expired tags on his license plate (but it’s more likely just a production mistake.)

What “Lucifer” Gets Wrong
The Devil They Know is Better
Than the Devil They Don’t

If there were people in the entertainment world who didn’t believe that Adolf Hitler really existed, I could imagine someone reenvisioning him to be some TV drama’s charismatic hero. Many people would be understandably offended and concerned about what evils could flow from presenting the leader of the Third Reich — a spreader of hate and murderer of millions — as primetime television’s next charming protagonist. Ordinarily, aware of Godwin’s Law, I would avoid drawing comparisons to Hitler. Yet as bad as Hitler was, the devil is much worse. The worst thing the show’s creators will get wrong about the devil is that he is certainly not, and will never be, ‘a demon with a heart of gold.’

When a young, dispirited pop star returns to Lucifer he counsels her, “Pull yourself together,” and comforts her. Following her sudden death, he looks on her lifeless body with shock and concern. He asks of the LAPD homicide detective, “What is your corrupt little organization going to do about this?” Later, he tells a female confidante, “Someone out there needs to be punished!” She replies, “Stop caring, you’re the devil.” Indeed, this does not fit with his true character. Unable to strike out at the Almighty, the devil attacks the human race God loves. The devil would not mourn the death of a young woman lost in her sins, he would desire her unhappy end and encourage it, as he did the suicide of Judas Iscariot. The devil hates us all.

Lucifer meets the police detective again and offers his assistance: “We should be out there punishing those responsible. Come on, I’ll help you.” However, the real devil does not accuse sinners and will their damnation out of a devotion to truth or justice. He tempts and condemns out of envy, to prove that others are no better than himself. “[B]y the envy of the devil, death entered the world…” (Wisdom 2:24) Jesus said of him, “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

If you want to see something of what the devil is like, I suggest Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. (*) Heath Ledger described the Joker as “an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown,” and his portrayal of evil will be long remembered. However, I doubt the same will be true for FOX’s Lucifer.

Why I Doubt “Lucifer” Will Last
The Devil Has No New Tricks

What type of show is Lucifer? It’s a sometimes light-hearted police procedural with supernatural themes and a “will-they-or-won’t-they” romantic subplot. FOX’s Lucifer is basically like The X-Files with angels instead of aliens. However, I’ll be surprised if it survives beyond its first season. I am dubious about how original and well-written the show will be since it borrows so much from previous works:

— We saw charming, talented eccentrics tagging along with cops to solve crimes in The Mentalist, Castle, and Monk.

— We saw snarky jerks growing in their humanity in CommunityHouse, and Sherlock.

— We saw a fallen angel embracing human life and love in Los Angeles in Nicholas Cage’s City of Angels.

— We saw a brazen angel in human form magically attracting women in John Travolta’s Michael.

— We saw a female love interest be uniquely impervious to a dangerous hunk’s powers with Bella and Edward in Twilight.

— We even saw a demonic vanity license plate (“BAD 1″) in Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley’s Bedazzled.

— At least FOX’s Lucifer plays piano instead of a mean fiddle.

Will these recycled elements gel into a successful hit? Will solving crimes, landing insults, exposing hypocrites, titillating women, and facing-down CGI angels and demons be a long-winning formula? I’m skeptical, but either way, I don’t plan to be watching.

How We Should Respond
Resist the Devil and He Will Flee

In the preface to his spiritually insightful and quite funny book about demonic temptation, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

As it is with devils, so I think for this show. In the coming year, I expect it to attract more heat and noise of controversy, and I suspect the show’s creators will welcome the free publicity. We may be told that everyone must watch the series in order to form an opinion — as if forms of entertainment were somehow entitled to our time and focus. On one hand, we do not want to lend this show inordinate attention. On the other hand, ignoring its existence would be a mistake. We should respond to FOX’s Lucifer with both true teaching and prayer.

FOX Lucifer ImageJust like with the inaccurate history of Dan Brown’s
The Da Vinci Code, this regrettable new TV show will bring with it
opportunities for catechesis; to teach about angels and demons, temptation and discernment, and the war that is fought for every human soul. (Teaching can be as easy as sharing an article like this one.) We can discourage others from tuning-in but, whether we like it or not, questions will come our way and we should be well-prepared to answer with the truth.

We must also pray. In 2012, an 24-year-old gunman with red-dyed hair, reportedly self-identifying as “the Joker,” killed 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater showing the third film of the Batman trilogy. On the human level, the responsibility for this crime lies with its perpetrator, but just as a movie can inspire an unstable person to imitate a villain, so a show about the devil can both lead the unwary into exploring the occult or subtly persuade others that the devil’s just a myth. Against such evils we should pray; not only for the impressionable viewers among the audience of millions, but for the creators of such art itself.

Spiritual connections are mysterious and rarely certain, but dabbling with satanic things can open doors to evil and burn us. Six months after the release of The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger, the actor who had immersed himself into the persona of the demonic Joker, was dead from a drug overdose. At one infamous concert in 1969, during which an audience member was later killed by “Hell’s Angels” working security, The Rolling Stones’ performance of “Sympathy for the Devil” was interrupted by a fight and the song had to be restarted. At the time, Mick Jagger remarked onstage, “We’re always having—something very funny happens when we start that number.”

For the good of everyone involved, I will be praying that the cast and crew of FOX’s Lucifer may soon find themselves safely employed in other work and, if Lucifer ever comes to air, that its harm may be minimal and a better show may quickly take its place. I invite you to join me in praying for the same by invoking the help of St. Michael, who fought the devil and the demons out of Heaven. (Revelation 12:7-9)

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us
in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray;
and may you, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.   Amen.

Three Crosses Line Break

(*) — Like the devil, the Joker in The Dark Knight is a liar, telling incompatible tales about his scars. He loves fire, chaos, violence, and death. Alfred the butler says of him, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” The Joker is an accuser of all: “See, their morals, their ‘code’…it’s a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these — ah — ‘civilized people?’ They’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” In the Joker’s climactic final scene, he is angered that those on neither ferry have blown the other up. Batman asks him, “What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone’s as ugly as you?!” The Joker tells Batman that they have been locked in “a battle for Gotham’s soul” while the camera films him, from an inverted perspective, having the likeness of one in an everlasting fall.

By Satan’s Power — Friday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 10, 2014

Readings: Galatians 3:7-14; Luke 11:15-26

Some in the crowd said of Jesus, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” In a certain sense, those people would be right.

Satan’s power in the world led to Jesus’ Passion. The devil probably thought he was winning by getting Jesus crucified, for ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ Yet Jesus surprised him by turning this curse into ‘a blessing for all nations.’ Jesus suffered Satan’s power, but brought good out of the evil. In this way, by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, Jesus drove out demons from the world.

Originally posted on October 8, 2010

“Get Behind Me” — 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

August 31, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”  He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

In Hebrew, “satan” means “adversary.” Peter is not the devil, but in opposing the Father’s true will for the Messiah, Peter is acting as an adversary and an obstacle to Jesus. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, during the temptation in the desert, Jesus told the devil, “Get away, Satan!” Later, in describing the Last Judgment, Jesus tells the unrighteous goats on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed…” Yet to St. Peter, Jesus says, ‘You are my friend, so get behind me… Stay close to me, and follow my lead.”

Three Temptation Tactics — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 8, 2014

Readings: Genesis 2:1-7, Matthew 4:1-11,

1. Observe the focus of the devil’s first temptation against Jesus:

He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

The devil attacks Jesus where he perceives him to be the most vulnerable.  The tempter behaves as St. Ignatius of Loyola describes in his Rules for Discernment:

[The enemy of our souls] behaves as a chief bent on conquering and robbing what he desires: for, as a captain and chief of the army, pitching his camp, and looking at the forces or defenses of a stronghold, attacks it on the weakest side, in like manner the enemy of human nature, roaming about, looks in turn at all our virtues, theological, cardinal and moral; and where he finds us weakest and most in need for our eternal salvation, there he attacks us and aims at taking us.

Imagine your king has made you the captain in charge of your walled-city’s defenses. Having lived there your whole life and having witnessed many previous sieges against the city, you should know its vulnerabilities well. Before the next hostile siege (which will surely come) would it not be wise to petition the king to reinforce wherever the walls are weak and to send the troops he can provide, and for you yourself to be an especially vigilant watchmen at the place where the next attack is most likely to come?

So it is for us. We have a lifetime of experience to know where we are weakest. Therefore, we should pray to the Lord to provide his strengthening grace where we are weak and to send his angels to help defend us, and to be especially vigilant at where the next temptation is most likely to come.

2. Imagine if Eve had said, “What you say, Serpent, is very different from what the Lord told us. My husband and I will discuss this with him the next time he visits us.” That would have entirely derailed the serpent’s wicked plans. Again, St. Ignatius:

[The enemy of our souls] acts as a licentious lover in wanting to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.

Therefore, we should bring our secret, hidden temptations out of the festering darkness and into the disinfectant light with a spiritual person we can confide in.

3. Observe how Eve responds the serpent’s sinful suggestion:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it…

The more Eve entertained the serpent’s temptation the more inevitable her fall to sin became. Contrast this with Jesus’ unyielding responses to the devil, including:

“Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

As St. Ignatius says:

The enemy acts like [an unvirtuous] woman, in being weak against vigor and strong of will. Because, as it is the way of the woman when she is quarrelling with some man to lose heart, taking flight when the man shows her much courage: and on the contrary, if the man, losing heart, begins to fly, the wrath, revenge, and ferocity of the woman is very great, and so without bounds; in the same manner, it is the way of the enemy to weaken and lose heart, his temptations taking flight, when the person who is exercising himself in spiritual things opposes a bold front against the temptations of the enemy, doing diametrically the opposite. And on the contrary, if the person who is exercising himself commences to have fear and lose heart in suffering the temptations, there is no beast so wild on the face of the earth as the enemy of human nature in following out his damnable intention with so great malice.

Therefore, let us be firm and uncompromising against temptation from the start, giving it no opportunity grow on us. Instead, let us focus on doing that vice’s opposing virtue. In the face of such firmness, the temptation will depart.

Tempting the Messiah — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 7, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot 1886-1894.The devil suggests Jesus should change stones into bread. He wants Jesus to be a materialistic Messiah who will focus on nourishing bodies to the neglect saving souls. Jesus replies that “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Christ shall change bread into himself at the Last Supper “for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

A depiction of Jesus being tempted at the temple by James Tissot, 1895The devil takes Jesus to a precipice atop the temple in Jerusalem and challenges him to throw himself down. He wants Jesus to be a Messiah who will hope to never suffer. Jesus responds that “you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” by trying to force him into doing our will. Christ shall be tested and condemned by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and be made a suffering Savior according to God’s plan. (Isaiah 53)

The devil takes Jesus up to a very high mountain, shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and promises to bestow them all if Jesus would simply prostrate himself and worship him. He wants Jesus to be a compromised Messiah who will pursue good by doing (or serving) evil. Jesus replies that “Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” By unwavering obedience to his heavenly Father, Christ shall become the king of all nations, enthroned high upon a cross on Mount Calvary. (Matthew 20:21)

The “In Brief” Catechism On “The Fall” (CCC #413-421)

September 9, 2013

“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. . . It was through the devil’s envy that death entered the world.” (Wisdom 1:13, 2:24).

●  Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

●  Although set by God in a state of rectitude man, enticed by the evil one, abused his freedom at the very start of history. He lifted himself up against God, and sought to attain his goal apart from him.

●  By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.

●  Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin.”

●  As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence.”)

●  “We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, “by propagation, not by imitation” and that it is. . . ‘proper to each.'” (Pope Paul VI)

●  The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20).

● Christians believe that the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator’s love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one.

Satan Prefigures Absalom

April 26, 2013

Satan was among the angels, called the “sons of God.” (Job 1:6)
Absalom is one of King David’s sons. (2 Sam 3:3)

Satan was called “the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
Absalom proves false to his name, which means “father of peace.”

Satan was “a murderer form the beginning.” (John 8:44)
The first Bible story about Absalom has him arranging his brother’s murder. (2 Sam 13:28)

Satan afflicts the world to gain attention and achieve his ends. (Job 2:7)
Absalom sets fire to a field to get the attention of Joab, who is ignoring his requests. (2 Sam 14:30)

Satan lied to tempt humanity away from loyalty to God. (Gen 3:4-5)
Absalom sits at the city gates hearing legal cases, flattering all that they are right, and lamenting that he is not in power to help; thereby stealing loyalties away from the king. (2 Sam 15:2-6)

Satan inspired the betrayal of Jesus at the Mount of Olives, where he felt sorrow and distress. (Luke 22:39)
Absalom’s betrayal leads David to flee by way of the Mount of Olives, where he cries aloud. (2 Sam 15:30)

Satan plotted against Jesus using Caiaphas, who said, “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” (John 11:50)
Absalom’s advisor Ahithophel counsels, ‘Let me choose twelve thousand men and be off in pursuit of David tonight. When all the people with him flee, I shall strike down the king alone. It is the death of only one man you are seeking; then all the people will be at peace.’ (2 Sam 17:1-3)

Once Satan was finished using the betrayer, Judas went away and hanged himself. (Matt 27:5)
Once Absalom’s advisor sees his counsel is ignored, Ahithophel leaves and hangs himself. (2 Sam 17:23)

Satan, called “Lucifer,” was radiant like the morning star. (Isa 14:12)
“In all Israel there was not a man who could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” (2 Sam 14:25)

Satan was a proud creature. (1 Tim 3:6)
Absalom shaves his hair every year—because it grows too heavy—and has the clippings weighted. (2 Sam 14:26)

Satan’s pride led to his downfall. (Isa 14:14-15)
Absalom is killed after his hair gets tangled in the branches of a tree. (2 Sam 18:9)

Satan, despite his unrepentance, is still loved by God. (Wis 11:24-12:1)
Absalom, despite his wickedness, is inconsolably mourned by his father, David. (2 Sam 19:1)

Tempting Christ — 1st Sunday of Lent—Year C

March 3, 2013

Today’s Gospel from Luke is preceded by Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. There, Jesus is revealed to be the Anointed One awaited by God’s people. The Anointed One is called the Messiah in Hebrew and the Christ in Greek. It was foretold that the “Anointed One” would have God as his Father in a unique and intimate way. This “Anointed One” was prophesied to come and be the savior, the champion, and the liberator of God’s people.

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days…” Here, before the start of the public ministry of Jesus, in the silence and solitude of this desert retreat, the thoughts and prayers of Jesus were probably about his mission ahead. At this time the devil comes to tempt him. The devil wants to influence the kind of Christ that Jesus will be in hopes of derailing his mission from the start.

The devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answers, “One does not live on bread alone.” What would be the evil in Jesus making this food? If he uses his power to meet his own needs, then the devil will ask “How can you refuse the needs of other people?” The devil wants Jesus to become an economic savior, a materialistic Messiah.

Jesus has compassion for our human condition–he knows it from his own first-hand experience. Jesus commands us to show his love to others by caring for their bodily needs. And when we do this it is Jesus acting through us. But if Jesus’ first mission had become to satisfy all material human needs, then Jesus would have been a Christ of bread alone, and we cannot live forever on bread alone. Making all of us wealthy wouldn’t be enough to make us holy, and so Jesus refuses the first temptation.

Then the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, “I shall give to you all the power and glory…. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” And Jesus answers, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” The devil offers Jesus an alternative to a life of obedience to his Father and in service to all. Jesus can become the world’s dictator whose own will must be done, if he would simply worship the devil.

This is the devil’s promise, but the devil is a liar. Making a deal with him gains nothing but loss, yet even if Jesus knew the devil would keep his word Jesus would have none of this. Jesus does not come to control us, but to invite us. He does not want to dominate us, but to persuade us to love. God seeks our loving response, and a response in love cannot be forced, so Jesus rejects the second temptation.

Then the devil takes Jesus to a high place and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for God will command his angels to guard you, and with their hands they will support you….” And Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Here the devil argues that Jesus should expect to be protected from suffering and be preserved from death. But Jesus was sent and came to die and rise for us. Without these things how would we have been saved? Jesus trusted the Father’s will, even in suffering and death, and so Jesus refuses the third temptation.

God often works in ways that we wouldn’t imagine or choose for ourselves. We would wish that everything in life would be easy and painless. We wish our temptations and sorrows did not afflict us. But a doctor’s cure is given according to the disease he finds. After the Fall of mankind, God intends to save us through the difficulties and struggles of this life.

Our growth in holiness can be slow and our sufferings may be difficult. However, we should never despair. Our struggle has rewards and our suffering has purpose. We know this because of Jesus, who endured temptations just like us and for us.

El evangelio de hoy es precedido por el bautismo de Jesús en el Jordán. Allí, Jesús se revela como el Ungido esperado por el pueblo de Dios. El ungido es llamado el Mesías en hebreo y Cristo en griego. Fue predicho que “el ungido” sería tener a Dios como su Padre de una manera única e íntima. Este “Ungido” fue profetizado ser el salvador, el campeón, y el libertador del pueblo de Dios.

“Llenos del Espíritu Santo, Jesús volvió del Jordán y fue llevado por el Espíritu al desierto por cuarenta días…” Aquí antes del inicio del ministerio público de Jesús, en el silencio y la soledad de este retiro desierto, los pensamientos y las oraciones de Jesús fueron probablemente sobre su misión por delante. Entonces, el diablo viene a tentarle. El diablo quiere influir en el tipo de Cristo que Jesús va a ser, con la esperanza de desbaratar su misión desde el principio.

El diablo dice: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, di a esta piedra que se convierta en pan”. Y Jesús responde: “El hombre no vive solamente de pan”. ¿Cuál sería el mal en la fabricación de este alimento? Si Jesús usa su poder para satisfacer sus propias necesidades, entonces el diablo le preguntará “¿Cómo puedes negar las necesidades de otras personas?” El diablo quiere Jesús para convertirse en un salvador económico, un Mesías materialista.

Jesús tiene compasión por la condición humana y él lo sabe por su propia experiencia. Jesús nos manda a mostrar su amor a los demás por el cuidado de sus necesidades corporales. Y cuando hacemos esto, Jesús está actuando a través de nosotros. Pero si la primera misión de Jesús había sido la de satisfacer todas las necesidades materiales humanas, entonces Jesús habría sido un Cristo de pan solamente, y no podemos vivir para siempre en el pan solo. Haciendo todos nosotros ricos no sería suficiente para hacernos santos, y así Jesús rechaza la primera tentación.

Entonces el diablo muestra a Jesús todos los reinos del mundo y le dice: “Yo te daré todo el poder y la gloria …. Todo esto será tuyo, si me adoras. “Y Jesús responde:” Adorarás al Señor, tu Dios, ya él solo servirás “. El diablo ofrece a Jesús una alternativa a una vida de obediencia a su Padre y servicio de todos. Jesús puede convertirse en dictador del mundo, cuya propia voluntad se debe hacer.

Esta es la promesa del diablo, pero el diablo es un mentiroso. Haciendo un trato con él no gana nada sino pérdida, sin embargo, incluso si Jesús sabía que el diablo cumpliría su palabra de Jesús no quiso saber nada de esto. Jesús no viene a controlarnos, sino para invitarnos. Él no quiere que nos dominen, sino para persuadir al amor. Dios busca nuestra respuesta de amor y una respuesta en el amor no puede ser forzado, y así Jesús rechaza la tentación segundo.

Entonces el diablo lleva a Jesús a un lugar alto y le dice: “Si eres Hijo de Dios, arrójate desde aquí, porque Dios mandará a sus ángeles para que te guarden, y con sus manos te apoyan….” Y Jesús responde, “No tentarás al Señor, tu Dios.”

Aquí el diablo argumenta que Jesús debe esperar a ser protegido de el sufrimiento y ser preservado de la muerte. Pero Jesús fue enviado y vino a morir y resucitar por nosotros. Sin estas cosas, ¿cómo hemos sido salvados? Jesús confió la voluntad del Padre, incluso en el sufrimiento y la muerte, y así Jesús se niega la tercera tentación.

A menudo Dios obra de maneras que no nos imaginamos o elegir por nosotros mismos. Nos gustaría que todo en la vida iba a ser fácil y sin dolor. Queremos nuestras tentaciones y sufrimientos no nos afligen. Pero la curación de un médico se administra de acuerdo a la enfermedad que encuentra. Después de la caída del hombre, Dios quiere salvarnos a través de las dificultades y las luchas de esta vida.

Nuestro crecimiento en la santidad puede ser lento y nuestro sufrimiento puede ser difícil. Sin embargo, nunca debe desesperarse. Nuestra lucha tiene recompensas y nuestro sufrimiento tiene un propósito. Lo sabemos gracias a Jesús, que sufrió tentaciones como nosotros y por nosotros.

Born Under the Law — Tuesday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

July 12, 2011

The story of Moses prefigures the life and works of Jesus Christ. St. Paul tells the Galatian Christians, “[We,] when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.”

The elemental powers St. Paul speaks of are the devil and the demons who powerfully and harmfully influence the world. Pharaoh and his evil reign image Satan, the demons, and their works. The children of Israel strained under the law and it brought them death. But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent a child, born of a woman, born under that law. That child, who would image person and works of Jesus, was Moses.

As long as he remained a quiet, sleepy newborn, the mother of Moses could hide him, but after three months her son began to loudly and frequently cry. With a pain that pierced her to the heart, she laid her son in the waters of death, hoping against hope, that she would receive him back safe. And, like Mary the mother of Jesus, God miraculously brought her son came back to her alive and safe. For what purpose was Moses was born under the law?—to ransom those under the law, so that they might receive God’s adoption. The Hebrews were known as the children of Israel, but they were to become the people of God.

Moses was destined to lead them, but in his youth, he was still unready. (His actions towards the Egyptian taskmaster make this clear. The one who would lead the people into the Promised Land, the one who would prefigure the Christ, could not to have an undisciplined and violent character.) After decades in a hidden life of preparation, Moses confronted Pharaoh and brought out the Israelites, not by force of arms, but by God’s power.

Moses led them into a new covenant relationship with God, who declared to them, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Through Moses, the Israelites were made God’s people. Through Jesus Christ, we are made God’s children. Let us recognize, that as much as Jesus is greater Moses, so the gift of the New Covenant is greater than the Old. As amazing as mighty deeds and graces of God were in the age of Moses, remember that these are all greater in the age of Jesus Christ.

The Age of the Donkey — 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 4, 2011


Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” But if that is so, why do so many things in the world seem so out of hand? We see that many things are sinful, broken, and not as they should be. Zechariah foretold that the true king would proclaim establish peace among the nations. Yet, this Fourth of July weekend sees our country fighting in at least two wars abroad. If we take our faith seriously, and think seriously about our faith, we’re led to ask, “Where is the reign of Jesus and where is His promised peace?”

In our first reading, we heard Zechariah prophesy that the true king, the Messiah, the Christ, would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. You will recall, of course, how Jesus fulfilled this passage when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the people’s shouts of joy. So what is the significance of His riding in on a donkey? The significance of the donkey is that it points to the meekness of Jesus’ reign.

In the ancient world, when a general sieged and took a fortified city, he would most often ride through its city gates by means of horse power. That conqueror would either be saddled upon one of these magnificently fast and powerful animals, or else he would ride in a chariot pulled by them. Then, upon entering, one would expect him to ruthlessly establish the new order of things. Oftentimes, to secure the conqueror’s rule, new laws would be proclaimed and severely enforced, prominent enemies would be put to death, and all local resistance would be crushed.

Jesus, however, comes into Jerusalem in a different way; not on a warhorse or in a chariot, but on a slow and humble donkey. This signifies that His reign shall be different. Apart from the relatively tame activism of scattering livestock and tipping tables at the temple, Jesus introduces his reign without any sign of force. In fact, the only person who would be murdered in the course of Jesus’ rise to power… would be Jesus Himself.

When Jesus stood accused before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, when He was in chains before Pilate and his troops, do you not think that He could have called upon His Father to provide Him in an instant with more than twelve legions of angels? Jesus could have backed Himself up with the power of more than 60,000 angelic warriors, but then He would not have died, and His kingdom would have been very different.

Let me speak for a minutes about the angels. God’s angels, in the first instant of their created existence, had a clear knowledge into God’s goodness and preeminence. In that moment, some of them decided that they would rather live as their own gods. As the Book of Revelation tells us, a war broke out in heaven; St. Michael the Archangel and his angels battled against Satan. Satan and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. Satan was thrown down to earth, and his angels were thrown down with him, where they have tempted us to share in their rebellion ever since. Sometimes people ask if Satan and the demons could be someday be saved. However, angels and demons are creatures that do not change their minds. Unlike human beings, they do not change over time. We human beings are a different sort of creatures. We learn through experience and (hopefully) grow in maturity. If one of us chooses to rebel through grave sin, hope remains for us, as long as we live, that we will repent and turn again to God, to love Him and others as we ought. Even after Caiaphas and Pilate condemned Jesus and handed Him over to for execution, hope remained for their conversion and salvation.

What if Jesus had called in His angelic reinforcements, unveiling before them the Heavenly armies in their terrifying fierceness? What if Christ had tolerated no resistance to the advent of His reign, to the coming of His Kingdom, in 33 AD?        In that case, all of humanity would be confronted with a sudden and inescapable choice, a choice either for Christ or against Him; a moment of choosing like that experienced by the angels and demons.

Some human beings, when confronted with Christ in this way, would sinfully refuse to follow Him, and that refusal would be a rebellion. And here we come to the heart of the problem: How can Christ allow these rebels to remain on the earth, in hopes that they may repent, unless He is willing to show some tolerance and patience toward their sinful resistance for a time? Jesus could wipe away all sin from the face of the earth in an instant, but He would have to wipe out all of the earth’s unrepentant sinners in the process. A sudden judgment would bring a quick and clean end to sin, but less of mankind would be saved. The approach Jesus has taken with us is more merciful, but is also messier. God hopes that all shall turn to Him freely, and not by force, because love cannot be forced. Jesus Christ hopes and works for the conversion and salvation of all. As St. Peter writes, “The Lord’s patience is directed towards salvation.” And though it can be difficult for us to see God’s providential purposes and plans in our lives, “we know that,” as St. Paul says, “all things work for good for those who love God.”

Where is the peace that was promised to the world? Its total reign, the fullness of the kingdom of God, is yet to come. For now, the spirit of the world and the Spirit of life do battle. But we can experience peace in our souls, peace in our families, and peace in our communities, if we live by the Spirit of Christ.

In this age, Jesus comes to us on a donkey, but in the age to come He shall ride a warhorse. As the Book of Revelation says:

“I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called ‘Faithful and True.’ He judges and wages war in righteousness.… He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. He has a name written on his cloak and on his thigh, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’”

In this age, Jesus rides the donkey, for this is the time of patient mercy. But on the Last Day, Jesus shall ride the white warhorse, for that is the time of decisive and definitive judgment. Let sinners take note; we shall not be permitted to keep sinning forever. And let those who mourn the brokenness, the sin, the suffering and death in the world take courage, for these things shall pass away. ‘See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he. He shall proclaim peace to the nations. And His rule shall be to the ends of the earth.’

The Passion of Lent — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 14, 2011


Today Satan approaches Jesus in the desert at the end of His forty days of prayer and fasting and attempts to divert Him from the Father’s plan.   The ancient serpent employs the same tactics he used on Eve in the garden, twisting God’s words and playing on human desires. So how much did Satan know about what Jesus intended to do in the years ahead? St. Matthew suggests the Devil knew something of this, because the three temptations Satan puts to Jesus foreshadow His future Passion.

First, Satan comes and says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Is it a coincidence that at the Last Supper Jesus will command bread to transformation into His very Self? It is as if the Devil were saying, “Why not simply give everyone bread. Why give yourself into their hands?” Jesus answers, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Jesus knows that a lifetime supply of bread would not save us. To live forever the Bread of Life must nourish us. Jesus is the Bread of Life. We do not live by bread alone, with whatever this world can offer, but by the Word that comes forth from the mouth of God. The Word of God is Jesus Christ.

This first temptation and Jesus’ answer point to the importance of prayer and the Eucharist. Prayer lifts our minds above having worldly thoughts alone. The Eucharist empowers our hearts to live for God. Do you pray every day? Prayer must be a top priority in Lent. Do you frequently receive Jesus in the Eucharist? In Lent, try coming to weekday Masses. Those who do so find it so powerful and precious that they often wonder how they ever used to make it a full seven days without receiving Jesus in between.

For his next temptation, Satan takes Jesus to the very top of the temple in Jerusalem. About three years later, not far from that place, the hostile Sanhedrin will gather and put Jesus on trial, questioning Him, demanding to know, ‘Are you the Son of God?’ and they’re not going to like His answer. The Devil says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  [God’s angels will protect you.]” It is as if the Devil were saying, “Since you are a child of God He will be with you to save you no matter what, so why not do your own will and decline to give difficult witness?” But Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

You and I are also children of God and He is always with us,  but this must not lead us to presumption. We need to seek His will and give witness in the world by our words and deeds. If we sin, God always offers forgiveness, but we must take Him up on the offer. God always welcomes sinners, but we must turn to Him. To keep sinning without any words or actions of repentance is to put God to the test.

This second temptation and Jesus’ response point to the importance of confession and conversion. This Lent, turn from sin, come to confession at least once, and put some serious thought into planning how you will “sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

For the third temptation, the Devil takes Jesus up to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence. He says, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Jesus plans to claim His universal kingdom by climbing another mountain by Himself, Mount Calvary, and by taking his throne on the cross. (This is why Jesus tells James and John that they do not know that they are asking when they request to sit ‘one at His right hand and one at His left when He enters His kingdom and glory.’) Here it is as if the Devil were saying, “If you simply give up you won’t have to sacrifice, you won’t have to suffer. Lay down your cross and lay down before me.” But Jesus rebukes the devil, (much like he will later rebuke St. Peter for saying, ‘God forbid such a thing should ever happen to you): “Get away, Satan! The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

This third temptation and Jesus’ answer point to the importance spiritual sacrifices and patiently bearing our burdens. We have taken on Lenten penances, let us not give them up; and when unforeseen trials come to us, let us trust that Jesus knows what He’s doing; for it is through crosses like these that God makes us holy.

Prayer and the Eucharist, confession and conversion, spiritual sacrifices and patiently bearing our burdens. Let these things be in your response as you are tested these forty days.

Evil: Unholy Holes — Tuesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

February 8, 2011

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” Everything that God has made, everything that has being, contains God’s goodness. What then is this thing called evil?

Think of a hole in the ground. What is the hole made of? Nothing really. If not for the good earth surrounding it you would not even know that a hole was there. Evil is like that hole, it’s an absence, a deprivation, a negation of something good. Evil can only be present within something good, as a corruption. Even though evil is essentially nothingness, that doesn’t mean that it can’t still hurt you, like falling into a deep, gaping hole.

Let no one think that evil is necessary for there to be good. No one should think of evil as the Ying to God’s Yang. God created a universe which was entirely good. It has been the free choices of the demons and of us to rebel in sin which have brought evils upon us.

Because of the goodness that remains in them, God shall love and preserve the Devil, the demons, and the damned forever. They shall not be destroyed, but they shall no longer do harm. They shall be as the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and side, which are as they are due to evil, but which cause no more pain, only glory.