Monday, February 13, 2012

The Temptations of This World

Satan tempts Jesus by offering Him the world
Whitney Houston is dead. 

Another "superstar" falls from the sky and the world is in shock and mourning.  We are told now that her death was probably a combination of alcohol and drugs.  Whitney Houston is just another sad story of what the "riches" of this world have to offer - death and destruction.  We have seen it so many, many times in our contemporary culture:  Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc. etc. etc.  And then there are those who have achieved fame and fortune outside of entertainment, such as Gadafi and Hitler.  The god of this world offers them instant gratification, they grab the ring, and it all ends in a terrible, sad death.

We have seen those who are still alive as I write this, such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who are living miserable unhappy lives despite all of their fame and fortune, and unless something drastic happens in their lives, they are headed for very sad endings.  Princess Diana - another desperately unhappy person despite the fame and fortune - died just one week before Mother Teresa.  I will always remember Mother Angelica's comment:  One who had everything died with nothing, and another who had nothing, died with everything. 

Satan's temptation of Christ as outlined in Matthew 4:1-11 is exactly how he tries to get to each one of us and how, sadly, he destroyed each one of these tragic persons.  Satan first tried to tempt Jesus by taking his mind off of the spiritual and concentrating on the physical.  Satan says: 
"If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."
This is very cunning on Satan's part.  He first tries to attack Jesus' pride by saying if you are the Son of God, thinking that Jesus is like the rest of us who would get very defensive and self righteous at this remark:  "What do you mean if?  Of course I'm the Son of God and I can prove it!"  By doing so, we take all the glory away from God and put it on ourselves, which is exactly what self righteousness and pride is all about.  Satan then tries to put Jesus' focus on the physical by offering him food, which represents all the physical comforts of life. 

Jesus replies: 
"It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." 
Like everything else Jesus said, this has many different meanings. This statement points to the written Word of God - the Bible, of course.  But he is also alluding to the Eucharist, where we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Living Word of God - Jesus Christ.  Jesus doesn't deny that we need physical food to sustain us, but he says that the real food is the Word of God, because that is where we find eternal life.  Physical comforts and sensations, fame and fortune, can give us instant gratification, but if that is our goal in life, we will reap death.  If we try to sustain ourselves only on the physical, we will die right along with it.  Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.

Satan then tries to attack Jesus through pride, taunting Jesus that if He really is God, he can easily prove it by throwing himself off the mountain and showing that legions of angels will come to his side.   Satan is also saying that if Jesus is the Son of God, and there actually is a God, then God has to abide by His own scripture and not allow any harm to come to Jesus.  And Satan bolsters his argument by quoting scripture, attempting to show that this is actually the Will of God.
"If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone." 
Jesus immediately calls Satan on what he is really trying to do: 
"It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
How often have we shaken our fists at God and said if you're really God, you would or would not let this happen!  If you're God, prove yourself to me!   If there is a God, how could he let this happen?  When we do this, we are actually tempting God.  When we tempt God, we are saying we doubt him and he must prove himself to us.  We are not believing God's plain statements to us.  We are saying that what he tells us is not enough for us, we need more.

Satan had one more trick up his sleeve.  When we fall for this temptation, it will cause the greatest destruction of all.
Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,

And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.
Jesus knew that in just a few years he would have to pour his blood out on the cross in order to redeem the world from Satan.  We know that Jesus actually prayed at one point to be spared the agony of this great sacrifice.  And here was Satan saying to him that he didn't have to go through it.  Jesus could have the whole world without the sacrifice of the cross.  There is one "little" catch:  he has to worship Satan. 

Jesus doesn't try to answer Satan, he doesn't argue with him.  He says without hesitation:

Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.
This is actually the same temptation that Satan tried to use through Peter, when Peter rebuked Jesus for saying he would "suffer many things."  Jesus called out Satan through Peter in the same way as he did on the mountain (Matthew 16:21-23):
From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again.  And Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee. Who turning, said to Peter: Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.
We need to ask ourselves - are we savoring the things of men and not of God?  If so, whether we realize it or not, we are worshipping at the altar of Satan and glorifying him.  We have example after example of what happens when people accept the temptations of Satan and reject God.  As Christ said in Matthew 16:26:  "For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?"  Whitney Houston is just one more tragic example that we can point to.  There is nothing in this world, apart from God, that can give us life.  Everything in this world is going to die and fade away, and if that is where we put our heart and treasure, we will die and fade with it. 

All of the media is glorifying Whitney Houston, despite the great lessons we could be learning from her life and death.  It is true that she was gifted with a tremendous voice.  Yet, we need to look honestly at her life and reject it, realizing that she chose the wrong way.  She is not someone to be admired, but someone who desperately needed our prayers while she was alive, and we can only hope that it is not too late to pray for her now.  Whitney Houston chose the way of Satan.  She chose the physical over the spiritual, and she paid for it with her life.  

As we enter into the season of Lent, let us resolve that we will not follow the way of this world, which is the way of Satan but instead, we will live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

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