The True Meaning of Temptation

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The True Meaning of Temptation

March 9, 2014 | HNMWebmaster | Faith, Homilies, Lent, Self-Reflection, St. Matthew, Strength

1st Sunday of Lent
March 9, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Gn 2:7-9, 3:1-7, Psalm 51, Rom 5:12-19, Mt 4:1-11
by Rev. Mr. Ray Roderique, Permanent Deacon

Step by step, Matthew has unfolded the story of Jesus. He begins by showing us how Jesus was born into this world. He goes on to show us, at least by implication, that Jesus had to perform faithfully his duties to his home before he began his duties to the world. He had to show that he was faithful in the smaller tasks before God gave him the greatest task of all. He goes on to show us how, with the emergence of John the Baptist, Jesus knew that his time had come to enter into his work. He shows us Jesus identifying himself with the people’s search for God. In that moment he shows us Jesus realization that he was indeed the chosen one of God, but his victory lay through the cross.

One thing that we ought to be aware of is the meaning of the word “Tempt”. The Greek word is “Peirazein”. In English, the word “tempt” has a consistently bad meaning. It always means to entice someone to do wrong, to seek to seduce them into sin, to try to persuade them to take the wrong way.  But Peirazein has a different element to its meaning. It means to “Test” far more than it means to tempt in our sense of the word.  What we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin.  It is not meant to make us bad, it is meant to make us good.  It is not meant to weaken us, it is meant to make us stronger.  It is the test which comes to a person whom God wishes to use.  So we see the whole incident, not so much as the tempting, but as the testing of Jesus.  This testing took place in the wilderness, a barren and forsaken area.  In that wilderness Jesus could be more alone than anywhere else in Palestine.  His task had come to him; God had spoken to him; he had to get things straightened out before he began, and he had to be alone.

It seems to be the law of life that just after our resistance power has been highest it nose-dives until it is at its lowest.  The tempter carefully, subtly, and skillfully chose his time to attack Jesus—-but Jesus conquered him.  We would do well to be on our guard after every time life has brought us to the heights, for it is then that we are in the gravest danger.  We should not regard the experience of Jesus as an outward experience.  It was a struggle that went on within his heart, mind, and soul.  This might be seen from the temptation of seeing all the Kingdoms from a mountain top, since no such mountain exists.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us.  His attack is launched in our own minds.  The very power of the devil lies in the fact that he breaches our defenses and attacks us from within.  He finds his allies and his weapons in our own inmost thoughts and desires.  We must also be aware that Jesus was tempted many other times along his journey, the most difficult being in the garden of Gethsemane.  In the Christian warfare there is no release.  Some people grow weary because they think they should reach a stage when they are beyond temptation, a stage at which the power of the tempter is forever broken.  Jesus never reached that stage.  From the beginning to the end he had to fight this battle; that is why he can help us fight ours.

We must always remember that again and again we are tempted through our gifts.  The person who is gifted with charm will be tempted to use that charm “to get away with anything”.  The person who is gifted with the power of words will be tempted to use them to justify their conduct.  The person with a vivid imagination will undergo agonies of temptation that a more stolid person might never experience.  The person with a great gift of mind will be tempted to use that gift for personal gain rather than for others.  It is the grim fact of temptation that it is just where we are strongest that we are most vulnerable.

Jesus’ last temptation was to worship Satan and he could have all the Kingdoms of the world.  What the tempter was saying was, “Compromise!  Come to terms with me ! Don’t make your demands so high! Wink a little bit at questionable things—and people will follow you in hordes.”  This was the temptation to come to terms with the world.  Jesus’ response was “You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve him and swear by His name.”  In essence, Jesus was showing us that you can never compromise with evil, he laid down the uncompromisingness of the Christian faith.  Christianity cannot stoop to the level of the world; it must lift the world to its level.  Nothing less will do.

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