This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Mar. 9, 2014:
“‘All these [kingdoms] I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.’ At this, Jesus said to [the devil], ‘Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, you shall worship, and him alone shall you serve.’” The devil was offering Jesus all the power the world had to offer…and Jesus turned him down. There is an example to live by.
The devil does not really have the power to “give” us anything–at least, not anything that would be good for us. All that he “gives” us are bad ideas and temptations. Of course, given our fallen nature, we also have those on our own–but the devil certainly doesn’t help us overcome them.
Obviously, if Jesus wanted to, He could have done what the devil was tempting him to do–He could have taken all of the kingdoms of the earth for His own, quite easily; He didn’t need Satan to give Him the go-ahead. Furthermore, all of the kingdoms of the earth would have inevitably been much better with Jesus ruling them then they were with the fallible kings they had. Despite all that, it was not the will of Jesus’ Father for Him to take control in such a way.
We may wonder why God wouldn’t want Him to do that. I mean, anybody who knows Jesus is well aware that He’d make a much better leader than anyone else (He’s God, for crying out loud). But God wants us to come to Him freely. While God taking the nations by force might make them better nations, it would destroy the gift of free will that He gave us at the beginning of time. Forced love and service are never as good as free love and obedience. While we might be happy if we were forced to love Jesus, we will be even happier if we choose to do so of our own accord. That’s what He wants.
In order to obtain (in a worldly way) complete power over the multitudes, Jesus would not have had to bow down to the devil; but He would need to turn away from the Father. And that would mean doing Satan’s will–worshipping Satan.
As fallible human beings, we do this often. Christ, however, would turn down the whole world for the Father’s will–which was, in the end, a decision made for our sakes! Yet so many of us–all of us, rather–will give in to what the devil wants, for only the smallest conveniences in our worldly lives. And we think ourselves worthy of following Christ.
We are not “worthy” to be called Christians; really, we shouldn’t feel “pride” in it. We should be honored by it, and humbled. Our perfect Lord is honoring us, who are hardly worthy to be dirt beneath His feet, by allowing us to follow Him. We should be thankful to Him, for sharing His truth with us, and letting us try to be faithful Christians. This attitude may help us to remember that we don’t follow Christ because we are great, but because He is great. We don’t do it because we are wise, but because He has chosen to share His truths with us. Put short, we shouldn’t kid ourselves.
“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me,” said the Psalmist in today’s readings. This Lenten season–the season of repentance–let us pray that the Lord may to do just that, for each and every one of us. He alone can purify us, by forgiving us of our sins. Never forget that.
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…the vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility.”–C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, “The Great Sin”)
by Cameron Daly