(Source: "Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas", pp. 55-57, 1937 Imp.)
CHRIST HAD TO BE TEMPTED IN THE DESERT
was in the desert forty days and forty nights: and
was tempted by Satan. -Mark i. 13.
1. It was
by Christ's own will that he was exposed
to the temptation by the devil, as it was also by his
own will that he was exposed to be slain by the limbs
of the devil. Had He not so willed, the devil would
have dared to approach him.
The devil is always more disposed to attack those
who are alone, because, as is said in Sacred Scrip-
ture, If a man shall prevail against one, two shall with
stand him easily (Eccles. iv. 12). That is why Christ
went out into the desert, as one going out
battle-ground, that there he might be tempted by
the devil. Whereupon St. Ambrose says that Christ
went into the desert for the express purpose of
provoking the devil. For unless the devil had fought,
Christ would never have overcome him for me.
St. Ambrose gives other reasons too. He says
that Christ chose the desert as the place to be
tempted for a hidden
reason, namely that he might
free from his exile Adam who, from Paradise, was
driven into the desert; and again that he did
for a reason in which there is no mystery, namely
to show us that the devil envies those who are
tending towards a better life.
2. We say with St. Chrysostom that Christ
to the temptation because the
devil most of all tempts those whom he sees alone.
So in the very beginning of things he tempted
woman, when he found her away from her husband.
It does not however follow from this that a man
ought to throw himself into any occasion of
temptation that presents itself.
Occasions of temptation are of two kinds.
One kind arises from man's own action, when,
for example, man himself goes near to sin, not
avoiding the occasion of sin. That such occasions
be avoided we know, and Holy Scripture
reminds us of it. Stay not in any part of the country
round about Sodom
(Gen. xix. 17). The second
kind of occasion arises from the devil's constant
envy of those who are tending to better things,
as St. Ambrose says, and this occasion of temptation
is not one we must avoid. So, according to
St. John Chrysostom, not only Christ was led into
the desert by the Holy Ghost, but all the children
of God who possess the Holy Ghost are led in
like manner. For God's children are never content
to sit down with idle
hands, but the Holy Ghost
ever urges them to undertake for God some great
work. And this, as far as the devil is concerned,
is to go into the desert, for in the desert there is
none of that wickedness which is the devil's delight.
Every good work is as it were a desert to the eye
of the world and of our flesh, for good works are
contrary to the desire of the world and of our flesh.
To give the devil such an opportunity of tempta-
tion as this is not dangerous, for it is much more
inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who is the
promoter of every perfect work, that prompts us
than the working of the devil who
hates them all.
(3 4i 2.)
Blessed be St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles!
The Papal Restoration Staff