Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
First Sunday of Lent 2016
February 14, 2016
“When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” Luke 4:13
Certainly these are ominous words. St. Luke writes that Satan departs from Jesus “for a time” (Luke 4:13). Some translations like the Revised Standard Version make the words even more threatening: “he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). The Greek word in the text (καιροȗ), according to my dictionary, admits both renderings because there is a sense of waiting for the right moment. Remember those words of the bully on the school ground when you were a child, “Just wait because you haven’t seen the last of me.” They express the arrogance of Satan, his persistence, his presumption to instill fear. Indeed Satan will reappear, as when at the Last Supper Satan enters the heart of Judas (John 13:27). Satan is not finished.
And what is the temptation of Satan? The answer to the question comes in the desert, in the encounter between our Divine Lord and the Prince of Darkness. The preface to two temptations is the cynical taunt, “If you are the Son of God” (Luke 4:3 and Luke 4:9). Each temptation involves a testing of God’s patience and sublime power. Each temptation—to satisfy hunger, to gain worldly acclaim, to be rescued from harm—is a temptation to forget God.
If we take temptation and like an artichoke peal back each leaf, we discover the heart. “At the heart of all temptations… is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying…” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. I, Chapter 2). And it is this forgetfulness of God that we meet with every temptation we experience—the idea that we can answer our own problems, provide our own bread, have God at our beck and call to impress the world, summon His power to meet our needs. In so doing we forget who God is, and eventually we simply lay Him aside.
We see this in petty gossip, in disregard for legitimate authority, in the creation of a purely secular society, and in the desire to satisfy physical desires. We see it in the negation of penance, the denial of truth, and the refusal to accept reality. “Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to the evil—no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place” (ibid.). Temptation is evil’s attempt to place a foot in the door of our souls and enters when we become convinced by some equivocation that God could not possibly want us to be unhappy or make a choice that would deny us some pleasure.
Evil is deceit. It fogs the mind with the smoke of temptation. It renders us incapable of seeing the good, recognizing truth, and discerning right from wrong. And it is to evil and Satan’s deceptions that Jesus answers definitively, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Luke 4:12; Deut. 6:16).
May God deliver us from evil and during this Lent of forty days make the determined rebuke of Satan by Jesus Christ our own.