WHO LIVES HERE?
Imagine, please, if you will, there’s this young boy in Publix who’s wandered away from his mom. He spies a pack of Oreo cookies with an unsealed edge. You can almost see his wheels churning; the tip of his tongue trying not to lick his lips. The nearby stock boy notices him eying the cookies and moves closer. “What are you doing there?” “Nothing.” “It looks to me like you’re planning to steal a cookie or two.” “No…. That’s just it, I’m trying not to.”
We all know that temptations can lead to trouble, sometimes even when we don’t give in. Such was the plight of the man that I read about in Reader’s digest. This man wrote that he was shopping in the mall with his wife when a shapely young woman is a short, form-fitting dress walked by. He followed her with his eyes. Without looking up from the item she was examining his wife asked, “Was it worth the trouble you are in?”
We know we can’t just shrug and say: “The devil made me do it!” The devil can’t MAKE us do anything. The devil may be clever, but not all powerful. It may feel that way, however, when we’re dangling on temptation’s hook, because the devil has a tried and true strategy for luring us into the net. First, lay out the bait like a fisherman luring a big fish. Observe the prey’s habits and hangouts; drop a custom-made lure right in front of our noses.
If we don’t bite, then, comes the appeal. What happens when we catch a glimpse, or hear a snatch, of tantalizing bait? We’re drawn in, we linger over it, we toy with the idea, roll it over in our minds until it consumes our imagination. We just HAVE to know what the gossip tidbit was that we only overheard part of. Now the struggle really begins. Our conscience jabs us in the ribs, the SOS flags go up and the red light begins blinking and warning sirens go off in our heads. The invitation is so delightful! What are we to do?
Notice how Luke ends his report in our gospel – the devil departs for a time. We know Satan kept track of Jesus and returned to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. The depth of Jesus’ trust in God is shown most fully when He rejects the temptations to turn away from His God-given mission. Christ let Satan try all his evil forces, and defeated him on every angle until the devil got discouraged and left “for a time.”
Benedict knew about this, didn’t he? Remember in chapter 43 he warns if the monastic comes late for chapel, even though ashamed, she should still come into chapel lest she be tempted to return to bed and sleep. Or worse he says, “settle down outside on the bench outside the chapel and engage in idle talk, thereby giving occasion to the Evil One. She should come inside the chapel so that she will not lose everything and may amend in the future.
Either we will resist temptation or we’ll yield, swim away or swallow the temptation whole. When you give in, you know the feeling of emptiness and the pain that clings around your heart. But, be alert when you do resist – be ready for the temptation to come full force from a different direction. Somebody else will open the gossip trap asking if you know why so and so said such and such. Or you know it’s prayer time, but you’ll just finish reading this one chapter.
When you feel good that you’ve resisted and you renew your resolve to be your best self, be ready. It seems there are three general kinds of temptations that our adversary will use. We may be caught off guard to notice new tempting wiles on the heels of a spiritual high point in our life. Our halos may shine on Ash Wednesday; we curb every negative thought. But that was on a day of silence and prayer. What happens the next day?
You’ve probably noticed that temptation may come at a time of physical weakness due to illness or lack of sleep. And, when we’re alone we are more susceptible to temptation. Be prepared for a major attack. Consider the rise in domestic violence during COVID shut-downs. Remember, Jesus experienced the devil’s temptation following his 40-day fast alone in the desert; just after his baptism and the Father’s affirmation: “This is my beloved Son.”
The one thing common to all three of the temptations described in the Gospel is that Satan attempted to distract Jesus from his mission and to destroy his relationship with his Heavenly Father. You may have to fight the battle more than once to win it. Don’t give up! There is truth in the story of what Martin Luther said when he was asked how he overcame the devil. “When the devil comes knocking at the door of my heart, asking who lives here, Jesus comes to the door says: Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. Now I live here.”
~ Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress