First Sunday of Lent

 

Sandro_Botticelli_-_Three_Temptations_of_Christ_(detail)_-
The Three Temptations of Christ, art by Sandro Botticelli

 
Cycle C: Luke 4: 1-13


Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread and to worship the forces of evil in order to acquire an earthly kingdom.


 

At the beginning of Macbeth, as Macbeth and Banquo are riding home from war in the flush of victory, three witches greet Macbeth with three titles. The first is his own title, “Thane of Glamis.” However the other two, “Thane of Cawdor” and “King hereafter,” belong to other men. Then the witches vanish into thin air. As Macbeth and Banquo continue their journey, a messenger from the King meets them upon the road and bestows upon Macbeth the title “Thane of Cawdor” as reward for his valor in war. Macbeth is confused; he knows that the Thane of Cawdor lives. But when he learns that the King intends to execute the Thane of Cawdor shortly for treason, Macbeth begins to tremble.

Why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
Against the use of nature?
(1.3.147-49)

Why does Macbeth’s murderous ambition to become king awaken? Since the witches’ first prediction has come true, he sees the second as a real possibility. Possibility is the form of all temptation. We are not tempted in our weaknesses but in our strengths and talents. The charming are tempted to seduce others by their wiles because they know that they are likely to succeed; the knowledgeable are tempted to make an impressive show of their knowledge; bullies or those with strong personalities are tempted to intimidate others. Those who know how to manipulate another’s guilt are tempted to make people do their bidding….

None of us has ever been tempted to turn stones into bread because we don’t have the power to do so. It is not a possibility; therefore, it is not a temptation. The particular forms of Jesus’ temptations are not our own, but what he was tempted with is the same — the abuse of power.

In one sense, all temptations are temptations of power, for power provides us with what we want, be it wealth, pleasure, possessions, prestige or revenge. Nothing entices us more than the possibility of getting our own way. But nothing corrupts us more than its pursuit. For the insatiable lust of getting what we want will not be satisfied until it devours our mind, heart, and will.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

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