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Christ Had to Be Tempted in the Desert

Taken from Medulla S. Thomae Aquinatis which arranges various short texts from St. Thomas Aquinas' corpus based on the liturgical year. I will be posting the day's meditation each day and will be bringing it into print once I'm through it.


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Monday after the First Sunday of Lent

Christ Had to Be Tempted in the Desert

Jesus was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by Satan. (Mark 1:13)

I. Christ of His own free-will exposed Himself to be tempted by the devil, just as by His own free-will He submitted to be killed by his members; else the devil would not have dared to approach Him. Now the devil prefers to assail a man who is alone, for, as it is written (Eccl 4:12), if a man prevail against one, two shall withstand him. And so it was that Christ went out into the desert, as to a field of battle, to be tempted there by the devil. Hence Ambrose says that Christ was led into the desert for the purpose of provoking the devil. For had he, i.e., the devil, not fought, He, i.e., Christ, would not have conquered.

He adds other reasons, saying that Christ in doing this set forth the mystery of Adam’s delivery from exile, who had been expelled from paradise into the desert, and set an example to us, by showing that the devil envies those who strive for better things.

II. In fact, Christ exposed himself to temptation, as Chrysostom says, the Devil is most eager to tempt when he sees one who is alone, as when he tempted the woman in the beginning when he found that she was away from her husband, but, it does not thus follow that man ought to indiscriminately seek out temptations.

The occasions of temptation are twofold. One is on the part of man—for instance, when a man causes himself to be near to sin by not avoiding the occasion of sinning. And such occasions of temptation should be avoided, as it is written of Lot (Gen 19:17): Neither stay thou in all the country about Sodom.

Another occasion of temptation is on the part of the devil, who always envies those who strive for better things, as Ambrose says (In Luc. iv, 1). And such occasions of temptation are not to be avoided. Hence Chrysostom says (Hom. v in Matth.): Not only Christ was led into the desert by the Spirit, but all God’s children that have the Holy Spirit. For it is not enough for them to sit idle; the Holy Spirit urges them to endeavor to do something great: which is for them to be in the desert from the devil’s standpoint, for no unrighteousness, in which the devil delights, is there. Again, every good work, compared to the flesh and the world, is the desert; because it is not according to the will of the flesh and of the world.

Now, there is no danger in giving the devil such an occasion of temptation; since the help of the Holy Spirit, who is the Author of the perfect deed, is more powerful than the assault of the envious devil.

(Selections from ST.III.Q41.A2)

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