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A Meditation on the Escalating Attack of Satan

February 18, 2016 10 Comments

2.18blogLast Sunday, we read the passage from the Gospel of Luke about the testing of Christ in the desert by Satan. In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas makes some interesting observations. He treats the temptations as having occurred in an escalating manner; he also connects Christ’s experience to that of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

St. Thomas writes,

Thus, too, did the devil set about the temptation of the first man. For at first he enticed his mind to consent to the eating of the forbidden fruit, saying (Genesis 3:1), “Why hath God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?” Secondly [he tempted him] to vainglory by saying, “Your eyes shall be opened.” Thirdly, he led the temptation to the extreme height of pride, saying, “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

This same order did he observe in tempting Christ. For at first he tempted Him to that which men desire, however spiritual they may be—namely, the support of the corporeal nature by food. Secondly, he advanced to that matter in which spiritual men are sometimes found wanting, inasmuch as they do certain things for show, which pertains to vainglory. Thirdly, he led the temptation on to that in which no spiritual men, but only carnal men, have a part—namely, to desire worldly riches and fame, to the extent of holding God in contempt (Summa Theologica III, 41.4).

Notice the escalating quality of the temptations. There is the baser temptation of the body. Then there is the temptation of the psyche with its interest in interpersonal relationships. Finally, there is the highest temptation, which attacks our relationship with God.

Let’s look at each in more detail.

The first (and most base) temptation is one of the body. It seeks to destroy the proper relationship of a person with his or her own soul and body. Jesus is tempted to consider eating bread, which was forbidden because the Holy Spirit had led Him to fast. Adam is bodily tempted by the offer of fruit, forbidden to him by God. But the fruit seems to Adam and Eve as: good for food, and [that it was] a delight to the eyes (Gen 3:6).

To us, too, come temptations to gratify the faculties of the body and our baser passions. These sorts of temptations seek to destroy the right relationship we need to have with our bodies and with the physical world of creation.

The second temptation attacks the intellect through an appeal to vainglory. Satan says that if Jesus will worship him, it will be granted to Him that all nations will glorify Him and He will have authority over them (Lk 4:6). Similarly, Adam is told, Your eyes shall be opened (Gen 3:5).

These sorts of temptations appeal to our excessive pride, encouraging us to seek things that are beyond us and to esteem ourselves more than we ought. We also have a tendency to seek fame and the praise of other men. This distorts the proper and well-ordered sense of ourselves as well as our relationships with others; we inordinately seek their praise and, even more darkly, desire to have power over them.

The third and highest temptation is one that attacks our soul and its proper relationship with God. It seeks to have us hold God in contempt. Satan tells Jesus to cast Himself recklessly from the highest pinnacle and thereby sinfully presume that God will rescue Him no matter what He does. Similarly, Adam and Eve are told, You will be as gods (Gen 3:5). Adam is tempted to hold God in contempt by sinfully presuming that he is God’s equal or rival.

We, too, are tempted to trivialize God and to hold Him in contempt by disregarding His warnings about the inevitable consequences of serious and unrepented sin, and by substituting our own notions over and against His truth. We think we have a better understanding of justice than He does and that His warnings about sin can be lightly set aside, that He will save us no matter how blatant our rejection of His plan.

Thus we see how the temptations of Adam and Jesus (and us) are not simply three categories of temptation, but a sequence that escalates in seriousness.

For us, the lesson is clear: as we allow baser temptations to take hold, more serious temptations aimed at our higher faculties also set in. As we give way to these lower sinful desires, our intellect becomes darkened and our will weakened. And as the intellect and will are attacked, so also is our relationship with God. With the mind and will wounded by baser bodily desires, the higher things of God seem more difficult and we can become contemptuously dismissive of His teachings and of our need for His grace and mercy.

It is a threefold, escalating attack of which we must be aware. Heed the wisdom of Scripture, as explained by St. Thomas!

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Comments (10)

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  1. John O'Hehir says:

    Hi Msgr, thank you for this article, which explains temptation in a very interesting way that I had not heard before.
    Thank you for your regular informative articles that help us in our faith life.

  2. carmel says:

    It has another perception where the first temptation was related to the flesh, the second was related to the soul in the MIND, and the third was related to the spirit within the soul in the HEART.

    As I see it, it represents the human being which in that moment in time was totally the property of Satan.The fact that he himself tested Jesus, after John through his baptism removed Satan from within Jesus’ soul, and on the direction of the Holy Spirit,as the perfect man, went for fourty days and justified Himself that He was the redeemer.

    Satan with the first temptation simply made it plane to Jesus that if He as the redeemer came to liberate souls from Satan’s grip, which as Jesus confirmed in other passage in the Gospel of John,that souls were His actual food, He first had to turn the stones into bread,which it was a direct reference to souls since with Satan’s presence in the souls,they were like stones.Jesus from the other hand told Satan that humans do not live on bread alone, but IN EVERY WORD which comes out of the mouth of God, which in the truth Jesus himself was the word of God, and all was created IN HIM, and by HIM all is sustained, which is a direct reference to Satan himself. existence

    Thanks to Jesus humans today spiritually, in the Spirit of the Son, “THE WORD” have Mary within their soul related to heart, and Jesus in their soul related to their mind.

    This is depicted in the phrase:

    they are two in one flesh which means:

    Jesus and Mary, the source of God’s process of Divine Mercy are in the human being! battling with Satan to get souls back home to God.

    Depicted in the wedding in Cana in Jesus’ own words:

    What is this to you, and to me?

    • Deb says:

      Well, not sure about your interpretation, but I do know, that Satan was never in Jesus soul. Jesus was baptized for our benefit, not because he was ever in need of it himself. I would recommend reading the Catechism, 535-537 for an in depth description of why Jesus was baptized. It might clarify some of your other thoughts on this passage also. 🙂

      • carmel says:

        Humans, through Adam sin, became the property of Satan from conception.
        So Jesus “THE WORD” in order to be in all things like His brethren had Satan in His soul, Mary was saved in that moment. But He still was immaculate.

        Hebrews 4:12 ….For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the DIVISION OF THE SOUL AND SPIRIT,..

        HE BECAME CURSED FOR US SO WE BECOME CLEAN. Now Jesus on the cross was innocent clean otherwise He would have lost, so obvious He was cursed on conception.

        Ezekiel 44:2 And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut 3For the prince. The prince himself shall sit in it, to eat bread before the Lord: he shall enter in by the way of the porch of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.

        The above is a reference to Jesus conception,
        The gate is a reference to Mary’s womb describing her virginity. NO MAN SHALL PASS THROUGH IT.

        The Lord God of Israel is the Holy Ghost, and the prince is Satan, Notice the emphasis: The prince. The prince himself.

        This also confirmed Jesus’superiority over Satan and his assets.During His 18 years of holy Life, He was in direct battle with Satan and He dissolved all sins and temptations from Satan and his demons to the extent that they couldn’t tempt Him anymore, otherwise it would have been detrimental to them and became clean. Jesus never allowed Satan to be aware whom He was.

        Luke 8:18 …..and whosoever hath not, that also which he thinks he has, shall be taken away from him.

        Then He was baptized by John in order to remove Satan from within His soul ,who was in the truth Michael, the only Archangel superior to Satan, and the only human who was born through the Holy Spirit and not only sinless, but without Satan’s presence in His soul, otherwise he wouldn’t had the right to remove Satan from Jesus’ soul. John’s father Zachariah was infertile. The fact that Gabriel informed Mary that she was pregnant, without seeing a man, similar to her.

        Matthew 11:11 there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist:…

        John was really born of a woman, as he never had a Father. The fact that Jesus compared him to Him as the lesser, since Jesus had Satan in His soul and John didn’t.

        Jesus confirmed this when He said to John: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfil all justice.

        Fulfil all justice is a reference to the removing of Satan from Jesus’ soul. Jesus justified all the entire process of creation in His body, then the spirit of God the Father took his place in Jesus’ soul, and walked on earth those three public astounding years till Jesus was crucified, and the Father left Jesus again, Satan, who is the spirit of death, entered Jesus’ soul again so He could die, otherwise Jesus could have never died, since He was the life itself, took Jesus’ soul to hell, who was The Holy Ghost, and glorified with Jesus’ flesh body,entered hell fire man in flesh, while Jesus body was in the grave!

        Depicted in Moses’ burning bush without being consumed.

        • Giacomo says:

          A few problems here. Elizabeth was barren, but God chose them to be the parents of John the Baptist and it was so, Zechariah is his father. John preached repentance but his baptism did not remove sin, he was the Best Man making preparation for the Bridegroom. St. Michael is a fellow creature, the Archangel, but he is pure spirit. Now, the demons in hell believe God is one and tremble. Remember, they (the demons) came before Jesus, did Him homage and confessed who Jesus was but our Lord silenced them and cast them out of the possessed. Jesus was never filled with Satan, the Devil cannot endure Jesus’ presence. Please remember, Jesus is always divine, fully God. To fulfill all justice/righteousness Jesus does, in accordance with Scripture, the will of the Father. His Baptism is the Revelation of God, that we have ‘access’ to the Father, through His Son and by the Spirit. Of course this is not fully realized until the Spirit testifies by the Water and the Blood. This is in our Creed. jt makes a good point. We offer Mary hyperdulia as the highest of creatures but not latria which we owe God alone.

  3. nady says:

    Dear Msgr. Pope,
    How do I explain myself now to my friends who are Roman Catholics?
    Abortion and Contraception I tell them is always evil and sin. We opposed Obamacare because of contraception mandate but looks like Obama just got another boost.I am quite confuse now as to think what is going on.
    There is not even a clarification from the church higher up’s on what the Pope really meant when he gave that interview.

  4. jt says:

    Dear Carmel,

    A Christian needs to look to the source of Christianity to understand. Christ, the Apostles, the early Church Fathers and the Teaching Authority of the Holy Magisterium. That is the Church Chist built upon Peter. Thankfully the proper interpretation of Holy Scripture has been preserved from the beginning. Some books of the Bible are written in different circumstances and such, which is not to say any less divine, but have important relevance in other ways.

    I humbly refute your assertion Mary lives our souls. The Blessed Trinity resides in the souls of those baptized and free of mortal sin. Mary is not venerated as God, but as close as you can get, but she does not reside in souls. She has all of the powers of the after-life (bi-location, reading hearts). She is single human creature called from all time and creation to be whom God would have as daughter (of the Father), task as spouse with Holy Spirit, and be submit as a child to in calling her Mother. I could caution you on the idea Mary dwells in anyone’s hearts. She is the most regal of all Saints by virtue of her relationship with God, but she is not God. She is part of the Communion of Saints and co-redemtrix, the highest of what are known as victim souls.

  5. carmel says:

    Jesus was baptized for our benefit, not because he was ever in need of it himself.

    Definitely, Jesus was born of a woman, lived on earth for thirty years within the greatest conflict from 12 years old, was baptized by John, suffered, died and then resurrected. So He did all those things for our benefit, the fact that He came in all things like His brethren, a reference only to His soul, except sin, and Satan was temporary the proprietor of souls, which means that he occupied souls from conception. Jesus’ soul also had to be likewise, even without Satan’s awareness, since actually Satan was the owner of the visible flesh and blood substance, and Jesus, the spirit of the Son, “THE WORD” was the owner of souls invisible. Flesh counts for nothing. In this manner Jesus’ soul the Holy Ghost the light and good, who conceived Mary, confirmed His superiority over Satan the darkness and evil, with a direct encounter within a flesh and blood body, “THE WORD” the Spirit of the Son, the son of man, Jesus, who is still in the entire process of creation since all by him, and sustains all, which He acquired from the ever Virgin Mary, whom He himself created as her soul.

  6. TMO says:

    Very interesting article. It leads me to ask you how does one know if one is following God’s Will and not presuming or even testing God? This is a very important question for me. Perhaps you have addressed this in a past article-if so, please forgive me.

  7. carmel says:

    A few problems here. Elizabeth was barren,

    Elizabeth was not barren, according to the gospel she was CALLED barren.Zachariah was infertile.Read and reflect

    Luke 1:18 And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.

    Abraham was hundred years old when he became father of Isaak through intercourse.

    Man remain fertile for life.

    Zacharia didn’t say that his wife was barrren, but old.

    John preached repentance but his baptism did not remove sin,

    John removed Satan from all those souls who on their free will wanted to be baptized, and if they were to repent in the truth, Satan would not have the right to enter their soul again.

    This was very important to Jesus’ preeching in otder to accept His WORD.

    Jesus though removed Satan from the ENTIRE process of creation, and the world became the source of purification,SOULS ARE BORN CLEAN RELATED TO CREATION. NATURE IS IMMACULATE, IN FACT IT IS AGAINST US it is through intercourse that Satan somehow participate, he is doing his work through the air, in whoever commit sin.

    This is depicted in
    Mark 11:12And the next day when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry. 13And when he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came if perhaps he might find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the time for figs. 14And answering he said to it:

    May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. And his disciples heard it.

    Jesus in the above was not talking to the tree, but to Satan.

    St. Michael is a fellow creature, the Archangel, but he is pure spirit.

    Michael is not pure spirit, only God is pure.

    Michael is a creature, and has a particular kind of body which could be dissolved not like ours which is hard.

    He was sent by God Himself to remove Satan both from humans, and from Jesus’soul, and in order for Jesus to manifest His absolute superiority on earth, and establish His church. Satan was not permitted to interfere with Jesus’work. He was temporary locked in hell.

    Mark 3:27 No man can enter into the house of a strong man and rob him of his goods, unless he first BIND THE STRONG MAN, and then shall he plunder his house.

    The fact that he entered Judah on Jesus’ permission when He told Judah to do what he wanted to do… and also Jesus himself made it clear when He said that

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