Chapter 2 of the book deals with the temptations of Jesus. (Mat 4:1-11)
The three synoptic Gospels tells us that after Jesus' baptism, he was led by the Spirit into the desert "to be tempted by the devil" (Mt 4:1). In relation, CCC 540 states: "Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is the Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes". Pope Benedict also observes that it is a "descent into the perils besettling mankind" - for there is no other way to lift up fallen humanity. "Jesus has to enter into the drama of human existence...to bear it on his shoulders".
This leads into the Pope's very incisive reflections on how these temptations address what truly matters in human life.
"At the heart of all these temptations, as we see here, is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives..."
"Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil -- no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our 'illusions' and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world into a better place...".
Such is the true yet sad commentary for our times. Many people in the modern world - including some professed Christians - fall prey to the beguiling wiles of the devil, all the while thinking there is a better way than what divine revelation really tells us. Worse, many are lured into false "moral posturing", as we take note that the devil in the temptations took it upon himself to even essay and twist Scriptures according to his evil intent. Thus today around the world, we see many activist, "humanitarian" efforts in "making the world into a better place". The liberalization of abortion under the guise of protecting freedom of choice. Public funding of abortions and biased medical rationing under the guise of affordable, universal health care. Promotion of abortifacient contraceptives under the guise of managing population and helping the poor families. Redefining marriage to protect equal rights and "natural tendencies". Destruction of human embryos under the guise of medical research to save lives. Promotion of euthanasia, even child euthanasia, under the guise of compassionate, humane treatment. All of these and more succumb to panem et circenses - the false lure of earthly bread, power, and artificial spectacle that evil tantalizingly offers.
The account of Jesus' temptations ends with Jesus refuting the devil: "Scripture says: worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone", whereupon the devil left him.
Worldly activists might ask: but what did Jesus actually bring if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world?
The answer is very simple: Jesus has brought God.
Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. "Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God's power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power."
The only thing that truly endures and saves.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009