by f. Luis CASASUS, General Superior of the Idente Missionaries.
Madrid, March 01, 2020. | First Sunday of Lent.
Book of Genesis 2: 7-9.3,1-7; Letter to the Romans 5: 12-19; Saint Matthew 4: 1-11.
In the Idente Youth, our Father Founder has taught us to live and spread the message that God, Nature and Society are the three sources where we learn to develop our sensitivity and where we discover what is truly valuable in our existence.
Therefore, it is not so surprising that the devil tempted Christ with three perverse ways of treating God, Nature and Society, three corrupt proposals, but camouflaged with the appearance of truth.
Nor can we be surprised that the devil tempted Christ precisely in the desert, a privileged place for the encounter with God. In fact, we have personal experience of how in the most decisive moments of our approach to God, perhaps when we have received a special grace, such as a sacrament, the religious vows, or the mission of accompanying souls, the temptation presents itself with greater vigor.
He always tempts the pure, because the others are already his; they offer no resistance. The devil is always close to the well-meaning and the consecrated…the others succumb from a distance.
But many people, including Catholics, believe that Satan is not a living being but a mere symbol of evil. And perhaps that is how Satan would prefer it, if it is true that the Devil’s cleverest wile is to convince us that he does not exist, as the French poet Charles Baudelaire, who was not exactly an angel, is credited with saying.
One of the more revealing and personal statements by a Pope about the devil was made by Cardinal Bergoglio, prior to his election, in 2010, in a dialogue with Rabbi Skorka: The devil’s fruits are always destructive: division, hate, and slander. And in my personal experience, I feel him every time that I am tempted to do something that is not what God wants for me. I believe that the Devil exists.
The reality of the devil is not proven in an academic discourse but by the fact that we can see the effects of his presence in the world and in our life A very common contemporary form of disbelief in the existence of the devil is that produced by a mediocre, superficial and poorly digested scientific reading. An example?
Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or
object. We see in other people the very things we do not want to see in ourselves.
Projection allows the difficult trait to be addressed without the individual fully recognizing
it in themselves. For example, a married man who is attracted to a female coworker might
accuse her of flirting with him.
Thanks to our unconscious mind, we are able to manipulate our picture of reality and see it
as we wish to see it; usually in a way that initially makes us feel more comfortable: It’s not
my fault; it’s someone else’s fault. I don’t feel envious of other people, but they sure seem
envious of me. By means of projection, we get rid of unwanted feelings and relocate them
in someone else.
And the naive, pseudoscientific and ignorant (of the Bible and of Psychology!) conclusion
is that the devil is… a fruit if this projection mechanism, an expressive myth that
“represents” evil and our bad inclinations.
But the devil, with a definite personality and characteristic behavior, perverts the truth,
as he did with Eve and he is doing in today’s Gospel. He fills our minds with doubts.
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one
comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path (Mt
The devil provides all the rationalizations why something is right, even though the Holy
Spirit and wise persons teach it as wrong. Did God really tell you not to eat from any of
the trees in the garden?
Our subconscious is a field that the devil uses to sow desires and ideas that can enslave
and dominate us. This is why Some of us, paradoxically, prepare ourselves beforehand to
fall into temptation, as the following little story shows us.
“Son,” ordered a father, “Don’t swim in that canal.” “OK, Dad,” he answered. But he came
home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening. “Where have you been?” demanded the
father. “Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy. “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?”
asked the father. “Yes, Sir,” answered the boy. “Why did you?” he asked. “Well, Dad,” he
explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” “Why did
you take your bathing suit with you?” he questioned. “So I’d be prepared to swim, in case I
was tempted,” he replied.
Satan uses everything to distract us from God. He tempts us to adore the material, the
sensual and the powerful rather than to adore God. He lures us into a sense of false
security of thinking we can build our own little kingdom here and now without any need
of God. He fills us with the pessimistic, the bad or hateful thoughts. He shows us all the
hurts, frustration and troubles of this world and of our own lives, hoping to lead us to
despair. Although today we speak of Christ’s temptations in the desert, the reality is that
the whole life of Jesus was a dramatic confrontation between him and the tempter.
We have to begin with the acknowledgement that we are weak. Acknowledgement of
the temptation and our weakness is the first step. If that is so, then we must study the cause
and the origin of our temptations so that we can better preempt and protect ourselves from
being exposed to unnecessary temptations. This is a spiritual preventive medicine:
When temptation threatens, when temptation appears, when temptation presses
- whatever temptation – we must move with true filial fear of committing sin. I
ask: if anyone in the Institute should be a young man, for example; a man who
is sitting, for example, studying, and a temptation comes to him, what should
he do? He has to do the same thing that he would do if he saw the house
collapsing at that moment: run away, flee at once: he has to do everything that
on the human level is possible, that is, that life is at stake. And here no
compromises can be allowed, no merciful invocations, but this attitude must
necessarily be taken. It is the terror of losing love; the terror of not gaining all
the love that I must acquire (Our father Founder, Sept. 4, 1970).
Of course, we have to implore the help of the Holy Spirit so that He can enlighten us and
give us the necessary grace to resist sin the moment we know it is a sin. Perception and
understanding must be followed by union, which leads to action. We must immediately
put into practice the resolution we make regarding the insight we receive from the Holy
Spirit. By hesitating and procrastinating, we will only allow the Devil to find new ways to
enter into our lives. Let us put the grace of God into practice.
Temptation is a trial in which man has a free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God.
Satan encouraged Jesus to deviate from the plan of his Father by misusing his authority
and privileges. When we are tempted, the solution is to be sought in the Spirit of the
Gospel, even in the even in the literal words of the Gospel. In His response to the first
temptation, Jesus underscored the importance of living from the Word of God. Adam
decides to follow his own misleading judgments; Christ makes a constant reference to the
Word of God.
In the first temptation, the wrong way with which one interacts with the Natural
reality (objects, our body, or talents…) is pictured. Satan challenged Jesus to use his
Messianic power for his self-interest. Jesus did miracles to reveal the glory of God or to
help those in need and not to serve his personal necessities. The selfish use of accumulated
wealth for oneself, living by the work of others, squandering in luxury and superfluity,
while others lack the necessary things, are behaviors dictated by the evil one…. We shall
not misuse our body, our resources and our time. They are also to be shared for the good
of others based on our love of God. Satan’s statement implied that, “You are not the Son
of God if you are not able to do this miracle for yourself.” Satan used tricky statement as
he did with Eve.
The second temptation seeks to corrupt our relationship with God. It is equivalent to
asking God for a sign, a proof, a miracle predetermined by us. We experience this
temptation when we doubt that God listens to us and we would like to see with our eyes
that He fulfills His promises and that, especially in difficult moments, He removes all
obstacles, pain and suffering from our path. We would like special treatment, asking him
to be freed by grace and miracles of difficulties, contrarieties, and disasters that affect
other people. Sometimes, when we read the words of Christ on the cross: My God, why
hast thou forsaken me? we forget that he was not complaining, but was praying, reciting
The third temptation is the temptation of power, of domination over others. That is,
to make selfish use of Society, of our relationship with our fellowmen.
The choice is between to master and to serve. This choice is manifested in every attitude
and in every condition of life. One who has attained some learning or has reached a
position of prestige can help to grow those who are less lucky or use it to humiliate those
who are less gifted.
The greed for power is so overwhelming that even those who are poor are tempted to
overpower those weaker than them.
Jesus did not use his talents to climb the steps of the religious or political power. He was
intelligent, lucid, courageous, and charmed the crowds. He certainly would have been
successful… but on one condition, that he “worshiped Satan” that he ally with the
powerful, using their methods. He made the opposite choice: he made himself a servant.
The voice that excites in us the thirst for power that invites to promote the cult of
personality is insistent and insidious.
The choice is either accepting or rejecting the Father’s plan. And His plan, invariably and
infallibly, is to bring us closer to him and to our neighbor. This is so true that he takes
advantage even of the temptations of the devil. Blessed is the man who endures trial, for
when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to
those who love him (James 1: 12). This explains why in our Examination of Perfection we
look at the Evil Signs, the traces of their ubiquitous presence.
The distrust towards God leads us to make choices contrary to his directions. Sin is not
born of a search of evil but of good and happiness. The trouble is that, distrusting God,
man points at the wrong target, misses the goal and self-destructs. It is a mistake, a lack of
wisdom, a senseless cunning.
We tend to think of temptation as something that attracts us under the guise of good. But
temptation means also “testing” or “proving” a person’s fidelity, integrity, virtue or
constancy. So if I tempt you, what I am really doing is measuring your ability to remain
faithful to your principles, seeing whether you really are the person you claim to be.
That is what the devil did with Jesus in the desert. He put him to the test by first getting
him to doubt himself, offering him greater status and power, and then getting him to be
over-confident (jumping off the roof of the temple, sure that the angels would catch him).
As we begin our Lenten journey this week can see temptations either as a threat to us or
else as moments when we can reaffirm our commitment to following Christ.
Let us not forget how today’s Gospel text ends: And, behold, angels came and ministered
to Him. This should remind us that the Holy Spirit responds with exactly what we need, if
we truly fast from temptation, we avoid even thinking of following the insinuations of the