+JMJ+ Welcome to part 6 of our Catholic Book of the Month, Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre. We didn’t finish with the book in January, so we’re continuing now in February. There’s more in the book than I can cover in these posts. You can get a copy of your own in hardcover or Kindle ebook format using the links at the end of this post. View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page. In this installment: the Three Temptations.
In the recent posts Dr. Pitre showed us that repentance is the foundation of the spiritual life and the commandments are the doorway, but what about temptation? Why are we tempted? In a general sense, I mean. Dr. Pitre here points out that it is “impossible to fully understand the good news of salvatino without first grasping the bad news of temptation to sin.”
So what are the root causes of sin? The great spiritual writers point out that Adam and Jesus are both tempted by three temptations. Let’s see how they are related. We’ll be looking at what is called the triple concupiscense.*
The triple concupiscense:
- Possessions, and
In the New Testament we find them mentioned in the first epistle of St. John, in 1 John 2:16:
- The lust of the flesh,
- The lust of the eyes, and
- The pride of life.
I’ve heard the story of Adam and Eve I don’t know how many times, but I missed this part right here: the three reasons Eve gave into the serpent.
Eve gave in to the serpent because she:
- Wanted the pleasure of tasting the fruit
- Longed to possess it once she saw it and
- Desired to be wise like God (by disobeying Him!)
These desires are good but Eve wants to satisfy her desires by abusing her freedom. Now her desires are disordered, and Adam follows her into her sin, plus he doesn’t counsel her to obey God. He’s supposed to be guarding the Garden but he doesn’t even guard his beloved wife. I mean, come on, he only has one person to take care of at this point and he doesn’t even try. If he did try, it’s not given to us in the story.
Now it’s time to compare this to the Three Temptations in the desert that Jesus goes through after His forty days of prayer and fasting.
The devil tempts Jesus with:
- The pleasure of eating,
- The desire to possess glory, and
- The pride of exalting Himself.
That cracks me up. The devil tries to tempt the One Who makes all things new, the One by Whom and for Whom and through Whom all things were created, the One Who has all the glory it’s possible to have, the One Who has no need of exalting Himself because He is already as exalted as He can be, has no need of enhancing His reputation or self-esteem or becoming like God because He already is GOD. But the devil, for all his cunning and superior intellect (to ours, not to Christ’s), cannot see God standing right in front of him. Come to think of it, that superior intellect doesn’t ever seem to do the devil much good. I mean, look where it’s gotten him: he rules over a hellhole. Not much to brag about, seems to me.
Jesus here is undoing the sin of Adam. He faces the three temptations and beats them and beats the devil at his own game. Jesus is the New Adam, conquering temptation and the power of temptation. Dr. Pitre goes on to give examples of this from the great spiritual writers, and next he shows that Jesus gave the disciples three remedies, three spiritual exercises so that they can conquer the three temptations in their own hearts, as can we if we do as our Lord tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16. What are the three remedies? You’ve heard them before (but you may not have heard them explained this way).
Three spiritual exercises or remedies are:
Contrary to what so many of our separated brethren insist, Jesus did not come to suffer so we would not have to, but He did come to show us how to suffer, and how to use that suffering in order to grow in holiness, and He gives us His grace to make this all possible.
Next week, how to conquer the lust of the flesh: Fasting.
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I hope you’ll join me on this Quest and that we can help each other to become saints. Yes, SAINTS! Pray for me, and know that I pray for you. God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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Notes and Links
- The Catholic Book of the Month for January 2022 is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
- *Concupiscense: That’s a word I never heard until I began studying Catholic teachings, and it means disordered human desire but the link takes you to the definition in the Catholic encyclopedia (published between 1907 and 1912) and gives a much more detailed answer.
Image: in the banner, same one the cover of the book uses: The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Genesis 3:6, RSV2CE. Luke 4:3-13 RSV2CE.
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