There is a conspicuous garden of rose hidden between the walkways of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi. Even though they seem ordinary, when one pays attention closely, one will find out that these plants do not have the usual thorns. According to tradition, Saint Francis of Assisi used to throw himself on these roses when he was under spiritual attacks and severely tempted by the Devil. When he passed away, they “lost” their thorns as well, and have remained this way ever since.
Similar to the great saint, we face many temptations throughout our lives. Even the Lord Jesus Christ got tempted by the Devil many times! The evil one always try to deter the Lord from His salvific mission and redemptive purpose. Being fully God and man, our Savior underwent everything like us except sin, so we see Him being tempted like us. As a matter of facts, many saints affirmed that Christ underwent more temptations than us because the Devil knew that He held the scale of salvation history. Therefore, we can conclude that temptations have always been a natural part of life since the beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In a way, to be tempted is to naturally be humans (after the Fall)! Nonetheless, we also know that temptations can only be tempting when real choices are given, especially when those choices are something personally affecting, connected, real, and intimate to us.
In Luke 4:1-13, we are reminded that the Lord was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. Many times, too, in our very life and faith journey, we will ask, doubt, and question God why He would allow us to be in the desert as well! Even though it is hard, especially when we are in the state of desolation, we have to remember that we are not alone or abandoned by Him. We are not alone for God is with us… as well as the pitiful one, lurking and waiting for the right moment to attack us when we are weak. Like a good general, the evil spirit study us well and wait for the right time, moment, and place when we are most vulnerable to attack.
He waited for the Lord to be hungry after 40 days in the desert to attack. He first asked Him to turn stones into bread! This temptation equates to the desire to satisfy our appetites and wantings immediately — right now. In a consumeristic world, this is often our go-to mode of operation because there are many companies and people out there willing to make it happen, and many times, at all costs. It has become hard to wait, and many people do not know how to do it!
If we take the time to slow down, we know deep within our hearts that not everything has to be satisfied just because we want or can! We have been taught and are called to practice self-control (as to have the proper time and discernment) to make proper decisions, especially ones that might not seem to be personally beneficial. Many times in life, we have to learn to make decisions for the greater good. Perhaps we ourselves have learned that (at times, in a hard way, too) that a “NO” is a greater “YES” to someone or something else much more important. Think about it, life is a series of many choices, and we have to learn to make choices that are not always appealing, popular, satisfying, or pleasurable, but those choices are something personal and as a gift of ourselves for a higher purpose than just our own immediate gratification or apparent hedonism.
The second temptation is one of power, especially the power to be able to influence or manipulate others. This is hard because our world often teaches us that it is important to have power in order to be happy, get what we want, assert ourselves, and be influential. We are often taught to be powerful in order to get the proper attention and make ourselves more appealing, in control, or “have it together” in comparison to others. Our world often worships powerful and influential people, making us feel envious and jealous, hence wanting to be people who have it all! Nonetheless, power does not equate happiness. The more one grabs on to the desire of power, the more one becomes restless, at times ruthless, inconsiderate, manipulative, and destructive because one is willing to use or risk others to get what he or she wants. Here is a sad irony… Those who are willing to do all things to be powerful or influential are often the ones who are the most isolated, lonely, and pitiful people in the world. Even though they might seem to have many people want, they are never at peace because they are always afraid of losing control or get debunked by others.
The third temptation is of our self-centered desire to seek, find, and have what seems to be impossible. It is the desire to push the envelope, be cutting edge, seek progress, and become the point of attention at all costs. It is our basic self-appeasing desire to be the one who did something (worthwhile)! It feeds on our fragile ego, and we have seen many people who chased after false gods, idols, and things to help them get what they want more than anyone else has or can ever imagine having. This is a basic temptation that is based and grounded itself on success so we can have to ourselves the glories or desire to be the center and focal point of everything — at all costs. It makes us feel like we are god-like in having control and having things our way. It strokes our ego in making us feel good and superior to others because we can have what they want or do not have. It makes us feel exquisite because we can taste and possess the rarity or privileges that many dreamt of having. Yet, like other temptations, it is temporary, constantly hustling to play the smoke and mirror show, and because it really never satisfy the soul deep from within.
With all three temptations, we can see that the Devil wittingly twisted the Scriptures and reality to get what he wants! He lied and made false claims in asking the Lord and us, His disciples, to give in to our appetite and immediate gratification, to feed our greed, and to secure our control over people and things around us. Hence, the only effective and real weapon against these repetitive and tempting lies is prayer! Even though it sounds ridiculous, only real prayer strengthens our personal and intimate relationship with God, and from that relationship comes self-control, prudence, wisdom, courage, and the like virtues to fight off the delirious attacks from the father of lies.
Therefore, do not be afraid of temptations. Learn from the Lord and turn to Him in our times of attack! Do not give in to the Devil‘s deceptions and lies. Let us try our best to fight the battle well, especially to find our humble dependency on God who strengthens us. We know that temptations can only be tempting when real choices are given, especially when those choices are something personally affecting, connected, real, and intimate to us. So, let us make our battle personal by lifting up our prayers, turning to Him, and finding ways to get out and evade the blund, immediate, and deceptive tactics. I will end this reflection short so you can re-read and reflect on the Lord‘s own temptations and learn from His unwavering defensive against the pitiful one’s cheap attacks.