Wow. An intense gospel for this first Sunday of Lent. If we let ourselves really hear this one, picturing this encounter between the Son of God and the Prince of Darkness, it should give us chills.
But I suppose these Boogie Man stories about the Devil are just stories, aren't they? I mean, the Devil? Come on, it's 2007! A red cape, horns, pitchfork, sinister laugh.... Haven't we decided that the temptation of Jesus was really just a psychosomatic projection of the inner doubt in his messianic identity? A hallucinogenic epiphenominalism brought on by the desert heat and a lack of nutrients?
For many of us living in this pluralistic society, where we're encouraged to paint our own truth and happiness in shades of moral grey, this showdown between good and evil is a bold black and white. The devil is real? Are you serious? Yes, the Church teaches.... very.
The temptation of Jesus by Lucifer in Luke 4:1-13 gives us a much needed dose of reality, supernatural reality. It's actually key to a right understanding of ourselves and the universe. The existence of Satan, his very entrance right at the dawn of creation, adds a crucial piece to the jigsaw puzzle of our broken humanity. It puts forth an answer to the problem of evil, shedding light on other questions about who we are and what makes us tick, why there's suffering in the world, and why bad things happen to good (and bad) people.
"Evil is still terribly present to us today. We witness manifestations of evil that often exceed our ability to understand; we are deeply disturbed and speechless when faced with certain events reported by the news. The consoling message that flows from the reflections we have made thus far is that there is in our midst one who is "stronger" than evil."
So said Fr. Cantalamessa just yesterday in Rome, where he serves as the Pope's official preacher and retreat master to the curia. He continues in his homily on this Sunday's gospel: "Some people experience in their lives or in their homes the presence of evil that seems to be diabolical in origin. Sometimes it certainly is - we know of the spread of satanic sects and rites in our society, especially among young people - but it is difficult in particular cases to determine whether we are truly dealing with Satan or with pathological disturbances. Fortunately, we do not have to be certain of the causes. The thing to do is to cling to Christ in faith, to call on his name, and to participate in the sacraments."
Jesus always had His eyes on the prize in Luke's gospel. He always turned His gaze to the Father. That's the answer for us regarding all temptation to selfishness and to evil; look to God, for our lives only make sense in light of Him Who is our origin, He Who is All Good. And we need to acknowledge too that there is a battle going on, a war within our hearts. We'll get no where in the struggle to be saints if we ignore the fact that there is a struggle. There is an enemy. And the man-made wars in our world pale in comparison to this war. The stakes are higher when immortal souls are on the line.
For an excellent article on the Problem of Evil, read Peter Kreeft's short essay.
To read Fr. Cantalamessa's entire homily on Zenit.org, visit here.
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