When we try to deepen our relationship with the Lord, the Devil will see our intentions and desires and he will try his best to deceivingly tempt us even more. Nevertheless, as we are tempted and bombarded by diabolical attacks, deceptions, and lies, let us not give up just yet! Let us not be afraid to stand up the petty creature by putting him back into his place as a wretched and damned creature of selfish and pitiful nature. He cannot do anything to us if we are humble and strong in our prayers. Little by little, we can resolve to let go of what is too comfortable for us by taking on what is spiritually challenging and conducive to our spiritual life. When we learn to let go of our wants and hold fast to Christ Jesus, we learn how to rise above the current situation and not give in or choose what seems to be easy and appealing at the moment. We embrace the opportunities to trust and grow in faith because we believe love in action, by allowing our love for Christ to be enlivened in us so that our lives and its self-giving, sacrificial offerings speak louder than our words.
When the Devil tempts us, he always attacks the fundamental desire that is based on self-centered pride because it seems so easy to choose our own goods before what is truly right and just, making ourselves and our desires more important than what God and His Church taught us. This is the slippery slope that makes us the primary mover and actor and God as secondary. Furthermore, the temptation becomes more appealing when we put our own personal goods above what the Almighty has instructed by making ourselves the criterion and center of all things. This is the basic and most fundamental sign of the broken reality and vestige of original sin, which is our inner desire to be like God instead of being obedient to Him!
When we look at the three temptations portrayed in Matthew 4:1-11, we see the Devil uses what are appealing to us as he did with the Lord who is fully human and divine. Oftentimes, the first and easiest temptation attacks our most basic level of the appetites because these things are easy tools for the Devil to throw at us because they are deceptively appealing, often driving many of us into immediate gratification. The second concerns our will and ego, making us think that if we just do things our ways, God will have to be there to save us from our troubles. The Devil downplays His existence, simply making Him our little genie to grant us our wishes. The third temptation attacks our fundamental belief in God by deceptively asking us to worship lesser idols and goods than the Creator of all things so we can get what we want. Sadly but true, I have seen people locked up in their perverted, self-centered, addicted, diabolically disturbed or demonically possessed world because they have allowed the Devil and his deceptions to enslave them.
The evil one does not tempt us in telling us whatever is objectively wrong right away. He tempts us by telling us lies that make one or some particular goods become more important than the ultimate good. He reels us in by making us more dependent on him, addicted and enslaved to the things that he has to offer, hence making us hopeless, despair, and resentful; because we even though we are not happy, we are scared to escape or let go because we have become too dependent on him or those matters. Those who are enslaved by the Devil might seem to have it all on the outside, to be envied by others, but they are never happy. Their souls are wretched and dark because they have engulfed by evil and its wicked power. They want to get away but they are so scared to let go of what they think makes them hedonistically satisfying for the moment. They simply hold on to what is immediately, sensationally, egocentrically, or deceptively appealing, prestigious, wealthy, powerful, and the likes.
The only way to overcome what is diabolically captivating, immediately urging, deceptive, enslaving, and controlling is to worship God and follow His laws more than what is good for us. The Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, Precepts and moral teachings of the Church are there to help us avoid the seven deadly and mortal sins that kill our souls deep from within. Furthermore, it is important to return back to the sacraments, to confess our sins — especially the mortal sins — in order to receive the necessary sacramental grace given to us by Christ and His Church. This act of humility is important because it makes us dependent on God instead of our own ego.
When we confess our faults and failures to His representative — the priest — and to receive the proper grace through the Church, we are freed from our pettiness that likes to justify our own selves and our own fragile egoistical excuses. We are putting God first and ourselves under Him when we are humble enough to recognize that we have sinned against Him and His love for us. We have to fight the battle well… Do not give in to temptations right away! We need to learn to fight the good fight and turn ourselves to God when the Devil is attacking us.
Temptations will come and go. Sometimes, they seem harder than other things that are in front of us! However, we are not animals or beasts who will give into our urges or appetites right away. We can be strong in the face of the Devil and his minions’ temptations, deceptions, and lies by saying, “You have no power over me! I belong to God. Go back to where you come from, you selfish, damned, and arrogant creature of God. In the name of Christ, I command you to be gone!”
It is hard to love, believe, and put our trust in God. It will not be an easy journey of faith! The evil one will know our desire and intention, and he will do his best to attack, deceive, and lie to us. Nonetheless, let us hold fast to Christ so that our faith becomes deepened, refreshed, and life-giving with new, personal, and intimate part of who we are as His disciples, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, and instruments of the Holy Spirit.
A Jew wrote on a slip of paper before leaving for the gas chamber — it was retrieved and posted in the magazine Cahiers sur l’Oraison: “Lord, remember also the men of ill will, but do not remember their cruelties. Remember the fruits that we have borne because of what they did. And grant, Lord, that the fruits that we have borne may one day be their redemption.”
When I first read it, this simple but powerful testimony brought me to tears, because between the lines of the prayer lies the important lesson of unitive and redemptive suffering that is filled with real hope, faith, and love. This message is so powerful because it contradicts our many current and usual ways of handling wrongdoings, sufferings, and evils.
With that in mind, we can come to know and be assured that our good works, sacrifices, and offerings are known and heard by the Almighty. Our good Lord taught us with His very own life examples of what it means to forgive, love, and give our lives for the sake of the truth. Hence, we learn to do all things out of love, not just for our own goods and benefits, but also for the greater good of all, even our enemies and those who have done us wrong. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans assured us that where sin or evil seems to increase, there grace increases even more! He invited us to have the obedience and attitude of Christ Jesus in the midst of many temptations, especially to simply seek retribution and reaction in the midst of many sufferings, evils, trials, and hardships, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.” Nonetheless, in a very earthily contradictory but paradoxical way through faith, our sufferings become redemptive and salvific when we join whatever is hard and hurting us to the Lord just as He did in union to His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit‘s workings to bring all things to completion out of love. (cf. Romans 5:12-19) Therefore, let us not lose heart or give in to temptations or what is self-serving right away but to choose to overcome all things through genuine forgiveness and love just as Christ has taught us.