Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Desert, Sin, and the PPP Temptations

Continuing our meditation on the Desert, today we will take a closer look at what happens while we are there willingly or not.

When the Holy Spirit has called us out into the desert and we have responded, or in His Wisdom has placed us in there, it is a time for brutal honesty.

This type of honesty is a necessity in the desert. Why, you may ask? Because, while in the desert there are some very specific rules that one needs to follow in order to not only survive the experience, but to grow as a result of the experience.
  • The desert is a brutal place to be. It is stark, with only a very highly adapted way of life allowing one to survive there. Look to St. Anthony of the Desert, the founding Desert Father and the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.
  • The only way to survive while in the desert is to be completely dependent on God for all forms of sustenance. Look to Jesus.
  • One must trust that God has a purpose for placing us in such a brutal environment. The Father truly loves us.
  • If we try and hide from God and what He is trying to work in us, the only "place" we have to go is essentially to bury ourselves in the sand.
  • The "oasis" of attachment to places, things, or people will not sustain us for very long.
  • Satan will try very hard to take advantage of our wounds and weaknesses as well as distract us from the goal of the Holy Spirit.
  • And finally, one must give the Holy Spirit one's will completely while in the desert.
The Scriptures tell us very specifically that Jesus was lead out into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be put to the test by the devil! (Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1)

Three very specific temptations are described to us in detail:
  1. Turn the stone to bread (Possessions)
  2. The offer of the kingdoms of the earth (Prestige)
  3. The request to jump from the Temple height and have the angels save Him (Power)
We are also given an insight into the fact that the devil will manipulate the Scriptures to say what he wants them to when in the third temptation he quotes Psalm 91:11-12:
... he has given his angels orders about you to guard you wherever you go. They will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.
A key to learning to survive the desert experience is to not concern ourselves with the, "why am I experiencing this temptation or that temptation", or, "where or who is this temptation coming from", but to focus on how we are going to deal with the temptation and then follow through on doing it.

If we focus on the why or try and discover where the temptation is coming from we are then sufficiently distracted from praying our way into discovering how we are going to deal with it.

Jesus shows us this method clearly in how He deals with each of the three temptations in the Scriptures. He focuses in on the temptation itself, not where it is coming from nor why it may be there, but He constructively takes the temptation apart to examine the best method of dealing with it, and then He follows through on turning it away.

The Father knows what He is doing. He draws us into the desert through the inspirations of the Holy Spirit to deal with something that is in between Him and us. He wants us to realize what it is that is holding our relationship back, and then He gives us the tools and the Grace to let it go.

The Father has given us the gift of Jesus heading out into the desert before us. He has given us in His Son a textbook example of how we are to live our desert experiences and also face and deal with our own temptations.

We can see that Jesus was indeed tempted with the big three: Power, Prestige, and Possessions. Had He succumbed to any of those temptations, He would have placed something in between Him and His relationship with His Father. The same is true of us if we too succumb to them.

Prayer: Father, we thank You and praise You for the gift of the Desert. We thank You for the shining example of Your Son's experiences while there before us. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit Father, help us to remain steadfast in giving our will completely to You. Help us to let go of everything that is interfering in our relationship with You!

Thank You Father, thank You Jesus, thank You Holy Spirit for the gift of Lent and the call to enter into the desert with Jesus!

Pax vobis,


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