THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
First Sunday in Lent
10 March 2019
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After the baptism of Our Lord by Saint John the Baptist, Jesus was led by the Holy Ghost into the desert to be tempted. Saint John Chrysostom takes this occasion to remind us that, "Who therefore among you who is even more tempted after baptism should not be troubled. It is for this you have received arms: not to stand at ease, but to fight. God will not then ward you off from temptation, and this He does for many reasons. First, that you may so learn that you are now stronger. Then, lest you be exalted by the greatness of His gifts. Thirdly, that the devil may receive proof you have wholly renounced him. Fourthly, that by this trial you may become yet stronger. Fifthly, that you may receive an indication of the treasure you have received: for the devil would not so pursue you, to tempt you, did he not see that you had now come to a higher dignity." We have been given graces and all our spiritual goods so that we may employ them in the service of God. We are not given talents to be buried, but to be put to work and make profit or increase for the Kingdom of Heaven. Now is not the time to rest or to take unending pleasure in the gifts of God. Now is the time for work. Our work is the overcoming of the world, our flesh, and the devils. In the beginning, God gave the command to Adam to subdue the earth. It is the God-given duty of man to rule and govern this earth. All of creation was given to us for our benefit and use, but principally for us to return ever increasing honor and glory to God. In this, the devils are constantly opposing us. They tempt us in the same manner that they tempted Jesus in today's Gospel.
The devils would have us rest when God calls us to work. St. John Chrysostom says: "To soothe that he may hurt is the way of the devil. To chastise that He may bring us to greater good is the way of the Lord." In this life, we will always find temptations, struggles, and labor when we are in the service of God. It is the devils that promise us freedom from temptations, struggles, and labor in this life, but with the ultimate result of eternal misery and suffering in Hell.
Jesus has shown us how to defeat the devils in each of their temptations, as well as the attitude we should employ. We see Jesus patiently endure temptations one after another when they are directed against His Human Nature. However, when the devils assault God then Jesus drives the demons away. This too, we should imitate. Here Saint John Chrysostom says: "See how when Christ suffered the affront of the temptations, the devil saying to him: if thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, He was not troubled, nor did He rebuke the devil. But now, when the devil dares to usurp the honor due to God, He hardens His heart and rebukes him, saying: begone, Satan; so that from this example we may learn to bear with courage the injuries done to us, but never to endure to hear injuries against the honor of God. For to be patient in one's own afflictions is praiseworthy; but to pass over affronts to God is a grievous impiety.
"Now let us briefly recall what is the meaning of the temptations. To fast is to abstain from an evil thing; that you hunger means the desire of it; its enjoyment is bread. He therefore who changes sin into his pleasure, changes stone into bread. Let him then make answer to the devil, that not in the sole enjoyment of pleasure does man live, but in the observance of the commandments of God. When however someone has become puffed up, believing himself holy, he is as it were taken up above the temple; and when he thinks he is standing upon the summit of holiness, he has been set upon a pinnacle of the temple. And this temptation follows the first, because the overcoming of temptation causes pride, and so may cause boasting. You see how Christ of His own Will fasted; yet the devil took Him up into the temple. You also freely practice a praiseworthy self-denial, but do not flatter yourself that you are then raised to the summit of holiness. Turn from the pride of the heart and you will not then come to ruin of the soul. The ascent of the mountain is the going up towards the heights of riches, and to the glory of this world which leads on to pride of heart. For when you have set your heart on riches: which is to go up into a high mountain: you begin to think of ways and means to acquire them; and it is then that the prince of this world will show you the glory of his kingdom. Thirdly, he will furnish you with motives why you must, to attain them, serve him, and neglect the service of God and of virtue."
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