It was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. In our Profession of Faith each Sunday we acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the Lord and giver of life. He leads Jesus into the desert to confront the author of sin and death. By his prayer and fasting he shows us how to overcome temptation. With each temptation he rejects it immediately without brooding over it. He doesn’t let temptation have any place in his thoughts or imagination.
Baptism takes away original sin, but not our tendency to sin. Temptation is inevitable for all of us, but sin is not inevitable.
Jesus was tempted by the Devil, but not all temptations come from the Devil. In the First Letter of John, St. John reminds us that not all temptations come from the Devil when he says,
Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever (1 John 2, 15-17).
The world here refers to a disordered desire for power, fame, approval, applause and human respect.
The Bible teaches us that temptations also come from the flesh – a disordered appetite for pleasure, money, alcohol, sleep, sex, food. The Lenten sacrifices we make of abstaining from meat on Fridays and other bodily sacrifices are meant to train our wills to reject these bodily temptations.
Some temptations do come from the Devil. The Church teaches us that the Devil is a real personal being, a fallen angel. He was created good by God, but abused his free will and rejected God. Now he hates God and hates all of those created in his image and likeness. Some people formerly involved in the abortion industry say that many in the industry are involved in occult practices. They see an attack on the unborn child as an indirect attack on God himself, since these innocent human beings are made in his image and likeness.
The Devil is like a crafty, dishonest salesman. All temptation is based on deception. Some temptations like those involving temptations to cowardice in the face of danger must be faced head on, but St. Philip Neri says that with temptations of the flesh, the best defense is to run away. We need not only to avoid sin, but the occasions of sin. These are the persons, places and things that lead us into serious sin. We need to choose friends with good character. If we have a problem with alcohol, we need to avoid bars. To be chaste, young people need to avoid being alone in a house or apartment with someone of the opposite sex. If a person has a problem with internet pornography, they should put their computer in a public place where they won’t be tempted to visit these sites.
All temptation is based on deception and this is especially true with the culture of death. Just as truth and life go together so do lies and death. I once attended a conference in which women told stories about their abortion experiences. They told stories of 1.) having been led to 2.) given no information on fetal development 3.) given no information on alternatives 4.) no information on pain or the possible side effects of abortion 5.) how their fears were manipulated in order for them to be sold an abortion. 6. After some came back to the abortion mill looking for comfort, they were dismissed and told to get over it.
The abortion industry has deceived women for years by telling them that their babies were just blobs of tissue, withholding information of the possible link between abortion and breast cancer – 29 of 39 studies done since 1959 show an increased risk of breast cancer after an abortion. The abortion industry also lies about the abortifacient nature of the so called morning after pill and some forms of contraception like the IUD and the birth control pill.
We need to overcome lies with truth and evil with good. Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3, 8). The culture of death is a work of the Devil. Ultimately, through the power of Christ, the culture of life will supplant the culture of death. But Christ will act through us to bring about this victory if we turn our lives over to him.