Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Temptations with Christ and Bishop Sheen

Bishop Fulton Sheen
1895 - 1979
Bishop Sheen has an illuminating way of presenting the temptations of Christ in his book A Brief Life of Christ. Here it is…in brief of course.

Each of the three temptations from Satan is related to one of three stages of a man’s life. They can surly apply to woman’s life as well, but men may relate better (just my opinion, judge for yourself).

The 1st Temptation:
Then 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.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4).

This first temptation parallels the first stage of a man’s life; his youth. I’ve heard it said (in this book, pg 55) that the portion of the brain responsible for suppressing impulses does not fully mature until the mid-twenties. In other words, the difference between a twenty-year-old and a thirty-year-old is not just ten years’ experience. The brain is physically different. If you are over thirty, think back on your own life in this light.

If cognitive reasoning skills are underdeveloped, temptations involving the flesh or physical gratification are more difficult to resist; think of a baby or small child. If you have an itch, scratch it. Why resist what comes naturally? “Just do it!” “Obey your thirst!”

It is in our youth that we must learn that our passions are not necessarily wrong, but “eating bread” without God will harm us, meaning that we should reject passions outside of God’s will, even if we must go “hungry”.

The 2nd Temptation:
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7)

This is a temptation of pride and egotism. The miracles of Jesus always foreshadowed greater spiritual realities and had a point. Jesus was not just showing off.  In the second temptation, it’s as if Satan is tempting Christ to clothe himself in wonders. Mankind will not accept or understand the sacrifice of a crucified God. Stick with the miracles. Fly off the temple and float around the city for a while. That will get their attention. People are bored, so be a magician. You’ll really make a name for yourself then.

And so it goes for the second stage of a man’s life. We wish to make a name for ourselves. Power and prestige set in to tempt a man to the point of narcissism. This can be seen in anything from climbing the corporate ladder to trying to impress others in church ministry, or just spending inordinate amounts of time working on “six-pack abs”. If we were somewhat successful at resisting the temptations of the flesh in our youth, Satan may say to us, “Very well, if you really trust God do something heroic. Be amazing! Make a name for yourself!”

No matter how well someone can quote scripture in a particular situation, it does not mean that he or she speaks in the spirit of Truth. Satan himself will gladly use the Word of God.

The 3rd Temptation:
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.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)

In the autumn of our lives we are drawn to possessions and the security of worldly things. We are not so comfortable with John 21:18 “…when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

We may have avoided the traps of the flesh in youth and the snares of pride in middle age, but it’s hard to let go completely and be “lead where we do not want to go”. Excessive hording of earthly goods and money as economic security gives the illusion of control. This preoccupation will distract us from our treasure in heaven and this happens at the worst time possible, the very end of our lives.

Few believe in the devil today, and that must be just fine by him. I’d imagine he is happy to hear the news of his death. If God is existence itself and calls Himself “I am who am”, then the devil is the father of lies and must be quite happy to remain in hiding and call himself "I am who am NOT".





1 comment:

  1. This is a very wonderful reflection. It has helped me to reflect on Jesus' passion and my sins than before! It is my grate desire to share it with others so that we can grow together more and more closer to our God. May God bless you Ben.

    Sister Susan Najjemba, IHMR