Todays Catholic Gospel reading is the Three Temptations of Jesus from Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus is tempted by the Tempter, or Devil, with three temptations; first to satisfy a hunger, second to satisfy a desire for protection, comfort and security and third to satisfy a desire for control, power and domination. These temptations are offered after He is baptized by John and after He fasted for 40 days which are symbolic of Jesus being centered in the divinity of who He is.
The three temptations represent the physical, emotional and mental temptations that all of us face everyday. Physically we want to satisfy our “hunger” for pleasure, sex, greed, gluttony and laziness. Emotionally we want to satisfy our desire for security, comfort, pride, excitement and attention and the stimulation that comes from envy, anger, self-pity and depression. Mentally we want to satisfy our desire for power, superiority, criticism and possessiveness.
So Jesus’ three temptations symbolize the desires we face, which we’re well aware of, but how do we overcome them? I mean Jesus was Jesus…he had the power but we don’t, right? Well I think that the Jesus’ responses to the Tempter give us all the information we need to overcome our own temptations.
How to Overcome Temptations
Jesus’ responses to each of the temptations gives us a step-by-step guide to how we can overcome the temptations that we face everyday.
1. “One does not live on bread alone,but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” – What is the “word” from God? The word from God is the divinity with which He created and sustains us and what that means in real world, applicable terms is that He gave us beauty, love, joy, wisdom, peace, compassion, harmony, grace, nobility, goodwill and strength with which we always have readily available to us. The first step to overcoming your temptations is to realize that these divine qualities are real and will satisfy you just as bread will satisfy your physical hunger. The higher, more noble part of you, the soul – your real self, is a wellspring of this divinity.
2. “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” – The reason we have these temptations is that, in addition to our divine selves, we have, obviously, a human self or personality. This personality is literally made of the physical, emotional and mental substance that is also what’s causing the temptations. This is why the temptations appear so immediate and strong. This baseness of which we’re made thinks it’s separate from the divine. Therefore the second step to overcoming your temptations is to integrate the divine into your life by developing the wisdom to view all of life from the higher divine perspective rather than the petty, limited perspective of the personality. When you do this you’ll start to see the pettiness of the temptations and, figuratively, you’ll stop testing and questioning God.
3. “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” – So you’re realizing that there is such a thing as a divinity that’s real and available to you and that you should integrate it into your life. The third step to overcoming your temptation is to then actually express and serve the divinity which represents the antidote to the temptation. So if you’re tempted by lust you overcome it by expressing the strength and nobility that you’ve recognized and integrated. If you’re tempted by greed you can overcome it by serving the peace and compassion you’ve developed. If you’re tempted by pride you can overcome it by shining the humility you’ve built up. If your tempted by anger or fear you can overcome them with the peace and courage you’ve established. In this way you’re bringing heaven to earth.
So overcome your temptations by realizing the existence of the divine, integrating it into you life and applying it to your daily self-expression.
Please let me know if this makes sense to you and if you have any questions by commenting below.