Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

First Sunday of Lent--9 March AD 2014

The Pinnacle of the Temple

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

Psalm 90-Translated from the Old Latin

    If you are familiar with the Psalms, you may have noticed that the Psalm read between today’s Epistle and Gospel seemed a little bit different—that is because the Church takes these chants from the very oldest Latin texts we have, known as the “Itala vetus,” or “old Italian” text.  The choice of Psalm 90 is obvious though, for it is the text quoted by the devil in today’s Gospel:  “For He has given His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways.  In their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.[1]

    I would strongly suggest that sometime today, when you have returned home, you carefully re-read Psalm 90—either in your missal, or in your Bible, or on the Internet where this sermon is posted.  It should be obvious that the Psalm relates to our Lord, and to the divine protection He receives from His Father and the angels from above.  But we should recognize that by our Lord’s willing death for us on the Cross, we too receive a share in that protection.

    Roughly 1400 years ago Pope Saint Gregory the Great wrote about this Gospel, and the points he made are still quite relevant to us, all these years later.[2]

    Pope Gregory points out to us that the temptation of our Lord was voluntary.  It was not the devil who lead Him into the desert, but rather “the Spirit,” the Holy Ghost.  This temptation was part of the divine plan, to provide an example to us in dealing with our own temptations.  For those who cannot believe that our Lord would give Himself over to the power of the devil, Pope Gregory points out that “the devil is the head of all the wicked, and every wicked man is a member of this body, of which the devil is the head.”  Allowing His temptation in the desert was not materially different from Him giving Himself over to the power of King Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and the mob that demanded His crucifixion—for these were all “members of the devil.”  If Jesus could come to deliver us from death by His own death on the Cross, He could likewise deliver us from our temptations by His own temptation in the desert.

    This “body of the wicked, of which the devil is the head,” mentioned by Pope Gregory, should suggest to us that we are intended to be members of a radically different Body—the Mystical Body of Christ.

    Pope Gregory discusses the way in which we are tempted:  “There is, first, the suggestion; then the delectation; lastly, the consent.”  That is to say that in temptation, we are presented with something that is good and attractive and given the suggestion that we might use it for some purpose beyond that for which it is intended.  Once this occurs to us, we begin to think of the ways in which it would delight us, whether they are good for us or not.  Once this delight occurs to us, we still have the opportunity to consent to the misuse or not.

    “There are two dozen pieces of chocolate candy here.”  “Chocolate tastes so good, and nobody will know if I eat them all.”  “Yes, I will!” or “No, I won’t!”  In a brief instant, temptation can give way to action that may be harmful to us and sinful before God.  But in that same brief instant, we can withhold our consent, and conquer our temptation.  And conquering temptation is both good for us and meritorious before God—we will be rewarded for refusing to sin.

    Let me digress here for just a moment to point out that the devil really didn’t offer our Lord anything at all!  The devil didn’t offer to change the stones into bread—our Lord would have had to do that for Himself!  The devil didn’t offer to catch Him if He threw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple—His own angels would have to do that!  And certainly “the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” were not the devils to give—for all of these things were the creations of Jesus Christ Himself.  My point is that the devil is a liar, and will rarely offer you anything of value that you will not have to gain through your own honest efforts for yourself.

    Now, back to Pope Saint Gregory.  Our Lord may have been tempted by the devil, but He could take no delight in the misuse of the things He was offered.  The mature Catholic will develop some of this in himself—when he has grown to understand that the consequences of all sin are slavery, suffering, and death, he will—like our Lord—take no delight in it, and give no consent to that which is sinful.

    Developing this understanding of sin requires a careful introspection and a strengthening of the intellect and will such as is provided by careful abstinence and penance.  One must rise above the misuse of created things by recognizing that such use is contrary to the divine order and to our natural good.  We must recognize that things like gluttony, adultery, beating, theft, lying, and cheating both displease God and do us only harm.  This recognition is a sign of maturity—of leaving childhood behind.  It is made possible by the grace of God who was both tempted and crucified for our sakes.

    If we cooperate with His graces, we have the same assurance that “God has given His angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways.  In their hands they shall bear us up, lest we dash our foot against a stone.”


[2]   Pope St Gregory the Great,  Homily 16, on the Gospels.


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