20 September OS 2018 – Wednesday of the 1st Week of St. Luke; Afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Cross; Holy Great-Martyr Eustace Placidus
In today’s Gospel we read S. Luke’s account of the Lord’s temptation by Satan:
At that time, Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. – Luke 4: 1-15
The Logos of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, assumed our human nature completely and truly, but without sin. In His true human nature He did that which we had to do to be saved but could not do because of the Ancestral Sin: He fulfilled all righteousness. One of the ways in which He fulfilled the telos – goal, end, purpose – of our humanity was His completely defeating Satan. He underwent temptation as a man, and He completely defeated the tempter. In all generations, those who defeat Satan do so only in union with Him, and He gives them the divine power to do so, if only they will believe in Him and follow Him on His path to the Cross.
Look at the three temptations of Satan in this passage, and you will see three great delusions of mankind today: to turn stones into bread, to live only for this temporary life, and to presume on God’s mercy.
Man revolts against God, nature, and common sense; he wants to turn stones into bread. He believes that he can violate every law of God and every moral and social tradition from the beginning of the world. He believes that he can dominate, distort, and re-make nature itself, to gratify his passions. He believes that he can call black white and white black, and declare that 2+2=5, and that nothing bad will happen to him. He is in for a bad surprise.
Man desires only this world and its pleasures. He calls eternal life “pie in the sky,” and he calls eternal torment a trick invented by priests to control the masses. He has gladly made the bargain of Faust with the devil: “All this will be yours if only you fall down and worship me.” He is in for a bad surprise.
Man presumes on God’s mercy: “God is love, and therefore I can do whatever I want. I will throw myself off the moral cliff, and God will catch me. If you do not think so, that is only because you are full of hate and intolerance.” He is in for a bad surprise.
Let us firmly resolve to confront reality, to accept it from the right hand of God, and to do penance in this life for our sins and the sins of the world. There is no other way, no Separate Peace; there is No Exit except the doorway of death, through which each of us shall pass into eternal joy or eternal torment. Let us take up our cross and follow the only One Who has defeated sin, the devil, death, and hell. Let us kiss and embrace His holy commandments, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, by obeying which we take His Cross upon our shoulders and follow Him to Golgotha and beyond, to the Resurrection and the Eternal Kingdom which will know no evening.
The time for lies is over.