Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Sunday of Lent—14 February AD 2016

The Pinnacle of the Temple

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

Psalm 90-Translated from the Old Latin

“Behold, now is the acceptable time;
behold, now, is the day of salvation.”[1]

    The Church is highly privileged to have the writings of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, including a sermon on today’s Gospel.[2]  To most of us it seems odd that the Holy Ghost would lead our Lord into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Gregory puts it into the perspective  that our Lord’s entire time on earth is directed to conquering the devil, sin, and death.  “He had come to undo our death by His own, He would also overcome our temptations in His temptations.”

    Pope Gregory points out that Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers acted on behalf of the devil;  the high priests and the Sanhedrin of the Jews acted on behalf of the devil.  “Why then should we be astonished if He allows Himself to be taken up into a mountain by the devil [when He allows Himself to be crucified by agents of the devil]?

    The temptations of our Lord were really quite similar to the temptations of Adam, although perhaps on a more grand scale.  Jesus had been fasting for forty days and was naturally hungry.  As the devil tempted Adam with a pleasant tasting fruit, the devil tempts Jesus with the possibility of turning stones into edible bread.  As the devil tempted Adam with vain glory, saying “shall be as Gods,” the devil tempts Jesus with the possibility of showing off His divinity by summoning the angels.  As the devil tempted Adam with the possibility of exaltation, “you shall know good and evil,” He tempted Jesus with exaltation over “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.”[3]

    Even though Jesus is tempted on a far grander scale than Adam, He resists absolutely for He understands the mechanism of temptation—as should we.  Generally speaking, we are tempted with something that is good.  Fruit and bread are intended by God for the nourishment of men and women—both are good.  But the mechanism of temptation comes into play when we perceive that we can do something excessive or forbidden with the good thing.  Eating what is forbidden by legitimate authority; eating more than what is good for our health;  stealing someone else’s bread to eat it—all of these are examples of giving in to temptation  by something that is, in itself, good.  Virtually every other sort of temptation works in the same way—concupiscence motivates us to make use of something good in an evil way.

    Another pertinent factor in this is that the devil generally offers thing in temptation that are not his to give.  He didn’t own the fruit in the garden, he expected Jesus to make His own bread by working a miracle, he had no control over the angels who would have broken Jesus’ fall from the pinnacle of the temple, and he owned none of the kingdoms of the world.  This is simply to say that the “rewards” of succumbing to temptation are mostly illusions.  The devil, or in many cases, our own ignorance confuses us into believing that by doing evil we will be rewarded with good.

    A primary purpose of keeping a good Lent is to develop the ability to deal with temptation.  Prayer is a key to this of course—we are assured of the intercession of our Lord and Lady and the other angels and saints.  We should be conscious of the fact that we are continuously in the presence of God, and our guardian angel.  Not only should we be ashamed of doing anything evil for them to see, but we must be continuously open to their guidance and protection.

    We must do our part.  The various penitential practices of the Church throughout the year, but especially during Lent, are intended for us to gain discipline over ourselves. Practice in refusing that chocolate bar or an extra serving of something delicious prepares us to turn away from things that are truly bad for us.  And, beyond discipline, penance is necessary to avoid punishment for sins we have already committed.  We can more certainly expect divine aid in avoiding sin if God knows that we are serious about doing so.

    The devil cannot force us to sin.  Saint Augustine describes him as being like a dog on a chain—he cannot bite us if we don’t get close with him.  Saint Paul tells us that “God …will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.[4]

    Let me remind you to avoid the “unnecessary occasions of sin.”  Don’t be associated with persons, places, or things that you know are likely to expose you to temptation—particularly if you don’t truly need to be associated with them.  A good Catholic never looks for opportunities to sin!

    Temptation itself is not a sin.  It only becomes sinful when we begin to consider it, to dwell on how much we would enjoy a sinful thing, and to plan how we might bring it about.  We should not seek out temptation, but when we are inadvertently tempted and we put the temptation behind us, we are doing something positively good—something for which God will reward us.

    “Be gone, Satan.”  Let us always be ready to speak these words of our Blessed Lord.  The devil has nothing to offer us but illusions.  Certainly nothing that he can offer is worth your immortal soul!!

“Behold, now is the acceptable time;
behold, now, is the day of salvation.”



[2]   M.F. Toal, The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume II, pages 32-36


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