The Devil loves to seduce humans into going against God, then laughs heartily at the offender as being so gullible and weak that he missed out on the purpose of life.
I thought about how the Devil might dissuade me from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) the center of my life. I thought about how he doesn’t make direct assaults on my Faith but puts up little and seemingly insignificant options for me to consider to make my center wobble and maybe derail. The Devil can’t make me do anything because of my free will, but neither can God. I must freely choose one way or the other. The problem is what way leads to fulfillment as a human and what way leads to death?
Here are a couple of temptations that I have experienced and which you may find of interest.
TEMPTATION ONE: It is foolish to die to oneself so that you can rise with Christ to make all things new.
Satan knows how to use those elements of my spirituality to sidetrack me from doing God’s will and replace it with my own. Each day, I start the day asking God to never let me out of his sight (which is impossible, but I must remind myself of it). Saint Michael’s Prayer is one I saw each day to remind myself that help is there for those who ask for it. The temptation suggests that I should choose only those things pleasing to me, those feelings and emotions that seem to fulfill my destiny such as power, fame, fortune, adulation from others. Christ comes to tell me something unpleasant. Namely that I must take up my cross daily and follow the way, the truth, and the life. This choice of dying to self to rise to Christ only takes place in the spiritual universe. Our human nature (physical and mental universes only) does not accept the notion of the cross, of leading a penitential life, of adding a spiritual dimension to what the world says is important.
TEMPTATION TWO: Speaking for the Holy Spirit
Just because I receive energy from the Holy Spirit in my Lectio Divina and Eucharistic Adoration does not mean that I speak for the Holy Spirit. One of the big mistakes we all make is thinking that the Holy Spirit is our personal wireless phone to the Father. Because of this, the Devil suggests to us that we should require others to follow what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. I have particular knowledge of this temptation because there is a voice that tells me all the time that I must be important if the Holy Spirit talks to me. In truth, it is the Holy Spirit that is important because I keep my mouth shut and listen.
TEMPTATION THREE: My god can beat your god
This temptation pits those whose belief is more on who is the correct church than those who preach the Gospel in season and out of season with patience and kindness. You become the judgment of God over others. You are the final arbiter of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. God looks a lot like you and certainly sounds like you.
TEMPTATION FOUR: Making your political party god
During this past political season, all political parties are guilty of playing god. The party platform is the Ten Commandments, the political officials are proselytizers of the gospel of their politics. People’s Faith is based on politics rather than the Gospel and they actually hate others and wish them evil. The Devil takes particular delight in this sin of factions and hatred. (Galatians 5)
TEMPTATION FIVE: Being a Catholic Priest or Minister or Rabbi means you can make the rules for others but don’t have to keep them yourself.
This is the sin of clericalism, that of laying burdens on others that you yourself don’t keep. I am speaking specifically of those chosen to be priests, ministers or rabbis rather than Laypersons, although this does apply to individuals who think the Holy Spirit gives them the right to be right (correct). See Temptation Two.
Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees. 1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. 4b They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. 5*c All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6*d They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7 greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ 8* As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. 10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. 11e The greatest among you must be your servant. 12f Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/23
TEMPTATION SIX: My spirituality is better than yours.
For Lay Cistercians, the application of this temptation is to think that you are somehow special over others who have different ways of centering themselves around the Christ Principle, such as Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Jesuit spirituality. There is only one Spirit, one Lord, one Baptism. The Devil uses those nefarious human weaknesses of wanting to sit at the abbot’s table, the right hand of God, as did the Sons of Thunder. In humility, as each of us measures ourselves against Christ, we all come up short and must continuously convert our minds and hearts to be more like Jesus and less like our false selves.
TEMPTATION SEVEN: No one can tell me what to believe or what to do with my body.
Humans have reason for a reason, as well as the ability to choose what is good, or in some cases bad, for themselves. This temptation from Satan works on our egos and is that faint whisper that no one is good enough to tell us what to believe. This is a subtle temptation to deny the sign of contradiction that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The World is the default for decision-making in this temptation. No Church, no Pope, No Bishop, No Abbot or Abbess, No Superior or Supervisor who is authorized as the visible head of Christ on earth, can tell me anything. I answer to no authority higher than my own ego. None of this religious stuff makes any sense, especially dying to self to rise with Christ to a new life (again and again).
TEMPTATION EIGHT: My choices about right and wrong are mine alone to make. I always choose what is easy over what is more difficult and demands sacrifice. When I am god, no one can tell me what is right or wrong because I make the rules. Adam and Eve fell into this trap from Satan and we all fall in and out of it as we make our way through the minefields of choices. Choice defines who we are.
TEMPTATION NINE: Belief makes something true. Here is a very sophisticated temptation. Faith comes from God in the form of the energy that helps enlighten us and allow us to love others as Christ loved us. Belief is a human response to that Faith. I saw a statistic recently from Bishop Robert Barron in his YouTube on the Eucharist that stated that 70% of Catholics in a Pew Survey did not believe in the real presence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzCPu_lEhe8&t=223s In my thinking, Eucharist, the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ, separates the remnant of those who believe in the sign of contradiction from those whose experience of Christ is like reading a good book.
Belief of all those who ever lived in Jesus as Lord will not make the Eucharist present in the host and precious blood of Christ. Only the authority of Jesus through the Apostles down to us today makes it so. The temptation of the Devil is to seduce those who have been Baptized to marginalize the Eucharist as so much magic and hocus-pocus. The Devil is influential but not powerful. He works around the edges of our weakenesses and unbelief. He counts on humans to be human, to slack off of practicing fidelity in prayer and sacrifices for others. He works the margins of the effects of original sin, as he did with Adam and Eve.
TEMPTATION TEN: There is no such thing as temptation.
In our modern times, we are tempted to discard all old-fashioned thinking in favor of becoming a more perfect person through psychology and self-help gurus. If the Devil can convince us that there is no temptation, no resurrection, that Jesus is not the Messiah, or we don’t have to do all those rules made up by dirty, old men who prey on the weak and take advantage of their power to seduce others, he is home free.
Unfortunately, some of the Faithful will succumb to this temptation whose choices may bode poorly for their Faith in the future. In this time of Lent, I pray first for me, that I may not enter into temptation, then for others in the Church, that they might see what is really going on in the battle between Satan and Christ with our souls being the stage on which all of this plays out.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology