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Terrance KleinMarch 06, 2019
“Christ in the Desert,” by Ivan Kramskoi“Christ in the Desert,” by Ivan Kramskoi

Have you ever stared at a puzzle without making progress until someone redirected your attention? The same often happens in life with knitting instructions, recipes, mathematical equations and technique in sports.

Hopefully, the same will happen here. Remove the devil from the story of Christ’s temptation in the desert. Excise him from the scene.

The purpose is not to deny the existence of malevolent spiritual powers that assail human beings. No. It is much the opposite. If you picture an ugly, dark-winged figure, dialoguing with Jesus, you reduce the real power of evil. Why? Because you have removed the devil’s greatest advantage: the darkness of confusion.

It is not that the evangelist is not accurately relating what happened. St. Luke was not a simpleton, writing in a world suffused by myths. Christ was indeed tempted by the devil. But if you picture a demon standing in front of Jesus, talking with him, you make it entirely too easy for Christ to have resisted the temptation. Anyone can resist an evil that overstates itself, that steps right in front of us, fully decked out courtesy of hell’s costume department.

If you picture a demon standing in front of Jesus, talking with him, you make it entirely too easy for Christ to have resisted the temptation. 

Think of some sin that you now truly regret. Would you have ever chosen it if you had been urged to do so by some hideous creature appearing before you? There is a reason the fallen angels seldom take that approach, and the same applies to angels of light and grace. If they were to fully manifest themselves—at least as fully as you can receive—would there be anything left for you to decide? All of the ambiguity, which is the very atmosphere of human life, would be drained away.

You fell into sin because of the dividedness of your heart, because the native strength of your intellect was darkened. You considered your course of action and saw, to some extent, what you should do. But then a counter-argument, an opposing story, entered your mind. If you are really looking for the devil in this Gospel scene, you will find him in the little word “if.”

If  you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread” (Lk 4:3).
“All this will be yours, if  you worship me” (4:7).
If  you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you” (9:10).

The power of diabolic evil lies in darkness, subtlety and confusion. Remember, the Greek word diábolos means “one who scatters.” Here, the tempter quotes Scripture itself to great effect. He simply inserts that insidious little “if.”

Here—and in our lives as well—a small truth surreptitiously substitutes for a great one: “She deserves what’s coming to her” replaces “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Read the headlines: The church itself is full of sin, so what does it matter if the church has always identified this action as a sin?

Yes, ethical decisions can be complex, even confusing at times. Reasonable people, intelligent people disagree over the rightness of many actions. But none of them will be present when you stand before God. Do not deny that you have made a choice by taking refuge in the ambiguity of “if.” One can choose a life of sin simply by deciding to remain in the “iffy” middle. Sin is the failure to do what is right. That you declared darkness and confusion to be your inescapable lot as a human will be no justification before God, who is truth.

What does Scripture say?
The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart
—that is, the word of faith that we preach—,
for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:8-9).

There is little reason to fear devils as they are imagined by Hollywood. Fear the one who wanders your soul, darkening your mind and confusing your thoughts. The devil is real, the devil is powerful, and this is because the devil is within you. Reject a darkening world of “ifs” and turn to your savior. His Spirit of truth is also within you.

Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10 Romans 10:8-13 Luke 4:1-13

More: Scripture / Lent
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Nora Bolcon
5 years 2 months ago

Yes, this is the lesson you need to be giving Pope Francis and the hierarchy of the church about the sexism and the continual abuse of women's humanity by their refusal to treat and ordain women the same as men. But you won't give them this lesson because you have chosen an oath to support this hatred rather than follow what Christ clearly commanded on how to treat all others.

It is interesting this scripture. I am a charismatic catholic christian and one of the gifts of prayer that we experience is visions. I have had visions with both the figures of Christ and that of a devil or beast character. I believe the Holy Spirit uses these vision figures of literal good and evil so that when we are lying to ourselves about wrongs we should know better than to support in any way, these visions clear up the self lying. As this priest points out, when God shows you your sin in the form of pure ugliness and darkness it is hard to deny that the sin is something God hates and one you should hate too.

God, when I have been in prayer has often shown me that the demon misogyny is not only present in our church but he has been given a comfortable place to nest in our empty pews and in the sacristys of our parishes and has even tried to effect the people serving on our church's altars. Showing this entity as a beast in visions helps me to differentiate between the demon and the person(s) who may be allowing the demon to influence him/herself into hurting women. It makes it easier not to hate the haters while still fully hating the Hater's acts and the real influencer of those acts.

This does not free our leaders from the culpability of using sexism against women by allowing sexism to turn the sacrament of Holy Orders into a weapon against all women in our church, by refusing women same ordination. However, it does shows me where to attack the hate and it reminds me that my brothers are also being used without their realizing it.

Perhaps Fr. Klein, if you chose to learn about Charismatic Prayer in our church God would show you just how ugly and sinful our discrimination against women is and how disgusting this bias is in God's eyes. Perhaps then you could not stand to see it's presence in our churches any longer and would join those, and get other priests to join those who are already demanding immediate and complete change and the righteous end to all patriarchy in Catholicism as a matter of human dignity and justice.

Robert Klein
5 years 2 months ago

God bless you please read theology of body and then except your place in gods world

Ann Johnson
5 years 2 months ago

And exactly what is this place that I am supposed to ACCEPT? Subservient to men? The first saint - Mary. The first apostle - Mary Magdalene. And many of us wonder if there would have been such horrific cover-up of priests abusing children if there had been more women in positions of authority/power in chancery offices.

Phillip Stone
5 years 2 months ago

To Ann Johnson, I am going to assume you are not a transsexual but a woman called Ann by your parents
Surely it is obvious, accept that you were created female, a daughter of Eve. Immutable.
The fair sex which is exemplified amongst Catholics as being conceived without original sin, lived a full life as a woman with a child while remaining absolutely without sin and who is the only one who is in heaven both body and soul, crowned as Queen of much more than the universe.

have you never had sufficient exposure to the weakness and sufferings and vulnerability of even one man enough to know that being created male, after our first parents sinned, it not a bed of roses, plain sailing, gorgeous and privileged? Not even a beloved son?

My cows and goats are always trying to eat the stuff growing on the other side of the fence.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 2 months ago

Phillip that is the same kind of argument white men have told black people to justify their hatred and abuse of blacks. They told themselves and black people you need to understand that God made black people to serve white people so why are you fighting your place given you by God?

This is a truly putrid and sin filled argument. Neither God in Genesis or Christ in any Gospel said women have different roles than men. The desire for men to oppress women is from the fall. That desire did not exist before the first sin and is a product of sin. So Phillip, either you are saved by Christ and free of the desires which men indulge in, based on sin, namely the desire to subjugate women or you are not free and do not wish to be free and are therefore a dead man already.

One cannot hold onto hatred and malice and enter into heaven. You must choose equity which means same treatment and therefore same sacraments be afforded to all. God will not accept your plea when the time comes that you did not know better when you treated your sisters less and tried to control them and help others strip them of their right to have their ordained priesthood realized in their lives. Do not kid yourself. How to treat all is plainly written in the Gospels - treat all the same is plainly commanded. If Jesus was your Lord in this life, you would have stood up for your sisters not stood against them when they sought same treatment as their brothers.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 2 months ago

The theology of the body is flawed as it teaches it is acceptable to treat one group of people differently than you want to be treated yourself based only on a person flesh. Jesus commanded all followers never do this to any people if they wish him to recognize them as one of his followers. Jesus tells us that those who treat others less based on their flesh are not Christians and are not saved as they have chosen hate over love.

Deb Brunsberg
5 years 2 months ago

I would urge you to remember that Lucifer was an angel of Light. He can appear to you in a frightening form or he can appear to you as Jesus Christ or the Blessed Mother or your best friend. He can use everything and everyone around you. The very first thing he will do is to make you think that you have been given special gifts and powers that raise you up above other "ungifted" or "ignorant" others. He will make you see things that are untrue and false in a way in which you will cling to them and proclaim them good and that you are so wise and knowledgeable.

I came into the Church by a very powerful conversion and was led to a Charismatic parish. I stayed until I realized that so much was about the "gifts" and not enough about the giver. I realized that the novelty of speaking in tongues was more attractive to some than actually understanding the truth. I realized that many of the Catholics around me were totally unformed and ignorant in the history of the Church, in the Traditions of the Church and even in the meaning of the Gospels. As the Lord drew me closer and closer to Him, as I matured in the faith, I realized that one uses the charisms the Lord gives them to witness to others rather than to let me think I was superior to others because of them.

My dear. Your almost rabid attachment to women not being priests speaks more to your own personal anger and possible wounds of being a woman. You have determined that women aren't priests because it is a power struggle involving men keeping women down instead of even seeking out the reason why women are not priests. I suggest you spend some time in Adoration (if they have that at your oh so special parish) and ask the Lord to open your heart so that you may find a way to educate yourself in the history of the Church. If the Lord God wanted to chose women as Shepherds, as Priests, as Apostles, He would have. He himself had no problem with women.

Your rant is not in the least something that would draw anyone to the faith and your preoccupation with something that is not ever going to happen shows that you are more of the world than you are of God. I am not saying this to be unkind, but because you appear to be following the one you claim you have such an insight into. I would say that he has done his job well. Praying you will eventually know what it means to be Catholic and will find a church that will teach that you. Misguided anger and rage are not of God. Inner peace is. When you have that, then you will know you are on the right path.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 2 months ago

Wow! it just goes to show you how one can be completely blind to their own arrogance!

First of all, the gifts are not about proving anyone superior over another and this statement represents a worldly form of jealousy perhaps on your part Deb?

I have experienced all gifts of the Holy Spirit not because I am special but because I sought them from God. Every Christian can speak in tongues or learn through visions given by God in prayer or receive revelation, etc. Most people don't receive some or all these gifts because they have been taught, wrongly, they are somehow earned by the believer and guilt or fear keeps them from stepping out in faith and receiving them into manifestation.

We are all gifted of the same Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is capable of doing all the same works in all believers according to the believers will and desire in faith to take part in any, or all the gifts and works. We are all equally capable but God forces no one to do any work in faith against their will.

Jesus, in two different Gospels, which you clearly have not read, tells a similar parable to fearful disciples who are afraid that they may not know the difference if God were working thru them or the devil, how can they be sure?

These parables are referred to as Orientalisms, meaning if you were from the Middle East you would understand the meaning more completely. Jesus tells his disciples, if your child were to ask you for bread, would you give him a stone? If he were to ask for an egg, would you give him scorpion? If he were to ask you for a fish, would you give him a snake? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father, who is perfect, give The Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, to those who believe in Him?

What many Americans don't realize is these examples are counterfeits and ones that a baby or small child may not realize the difference, and therefore be harmed by the gifts. In the Middle East the bread is pale and flat like many middle Eastern dessert rocks and if a child is fed the rock and tries to eat it, he will break his teeth. There are many colors of scorpions in the middle East, including white ones and all are deadly poisonous and the have a habit of curling up into a ball to hide but this can give them the appearance of an egg. If the child were fed this he would be stung and die. There are fish that are flat and long bodied in the middle East and poisonous snakes that also have this form. So again, if the child is fed this kind of snake, he will be bitten and die.

The point of this parable is to teach believers that they need not fear a counterfeit gift will be allowed to be given to them when they ask for real gifts from God. God knows we cant know the difference and protects us from the devil's counterfeits, if we put our trust in Him. We also have the Gospels to test all revelation against.

The Holy Spirit does not speak against the teachings of Christ. However, the Holy Spirit can speak against the sinful actions and laws of our church, if those laws teach to treat one group of people less or differently than another, based on flesh, as this breaks Christ's direct command on how to treat all others.

Jesus also tells us the only sin that won't be forgiven is to speak against the Holy Spirit. So you may want to take care when you judge another's spiritual gifts in Christ.

I have studied church history and women were presbyters in the early church as well as men. There were no ordained priests during the time of the apostles and none of them ever forbid any women from acting as presbyters, or becoming, or taking on any form of ministry that men took part in. Presbyters were the only ones who did what priests do in our church now.

Perhaps it is you who needs to study history and the Gospels, not me?

I believe all your words were meant to injure and insult me Deb and they did both.

Sexism is hatred both in and out of church, and it is injustice, and one that has been proven to lead or be causal directly to many other injustices - pedophilia among them. All Christians should fight obsessively against all injustice because Jesus is justice in the flesh. Those who will not stand against injustice, stand against Christ by their inaction.

Phillip Stone
5 years 2 months ago

Dear readers, pay no heed to this woman, Nora Bolcon.
The spirit from which she makes her utterances and accuses her brethren is not the Holy Spirit of the living God.
From my experience spanning 40 years amongst the faithful who worship and pray together believing and trusting that they are lead, guided and blessed by anointed encounters from the Holy Spirit while exercising what are described in the New Testament as charismatic gifts have scattered amongst them people like Nora.
They are deceived by one or more spirits which are not of God.

Please do not judge the latest outpouring of renewal of the faith of the baptised experienced by many Catholics and other Christians labelled charismatic by her words, ideas and attitudes.
We need to pray for her deliverance and the prayer group she attends, they are in danger of being led astray if they think her gifts are authentic and of God.

Nora Bolcon
5 years 2 months ago

Wow! You judge not me but the Holy Spirit when you condemn Charismatic Catholics or Christians by assuming the devil has possessed them instead.

That's OK Phillip I will pray for you since you are treating me the same way the Pharisees and scribes treated Jesus. When he did powerful works or spoke the perfect Truth, they told everyone around Jesus that Jesus was working the power of Beelzebub instead of God and that Jesus was actually possessed by a demon not any Holy power.

Jesus let's them know that there is only one sin that can never be forgiven, and that is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.

He told them this because they claimed he was possessed and did his works from the power of an evil spirit instead of the Holy Spirit.

If you must be consumed by fear Phillip, be fearful of The Holy Spirit and the Truth of the Gospels, not sexist demons whose influence has sadly been allowed a place in our church laws against what Christ has directly commanded.

Christopher Minch
5 years 2 months ago

Let me remind you, Mr. Stone in the Gospel of Matthew 6: 36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." I read over Ms. Bolcon's replies here, she speaks from her own experiences and knowledge of scripture. True even the devil can quote scripture and seem reasonable but Mr. Stone you have not refuted her arguments you are attacking her personally and judging her spirit. Really? You have every right to ignore her or to argue against what she says but to judge another's soul and spirit such that she needs "deliverance"? I am no great fan of charismatics, either of the progressive or conservative wings of the movement. I was a member of one of their groups for several years but I just didn't like the inherent feelings of specialness or uniqueness of themselves as being super Christians as opposed to those who attend church on a regular basis. But I could see where those who needed a more emotional and support system to maintain their faith that this was good as long as they continued to maintain regular attendance and membership in a local church. I also liked their regular study and use of scripture as formative in their lives as long as they were using authoritative sources. The charismatic gifts are useful for the building up of community but I find speaking in tongues and their interpretations troublesome only in that I prefer scripture, meditation, prayer and spiritual readings as prophetic enough for my needs. Also the Catholic church seems to have approved of the Catholic charismatic movement but it is not necessary for me.

Lach Satsuma
5 years 2 months ago

A respected author says :"St. Luke was not a simpleton, writing in a world suffused by myths." Well, Reverend, let me say that though you're not aware of it, you make the mistake of all neo-modernist interpreters of OT and NT. Where ? Sure, "St. Luke was not a simpleton, writing in a world suffused by myths."...but he wasn't either a "sophist" to play with words...to suggest any "Historical-Critical" Exegesis and "de-mythologizing" of Christ's words. Christ Himself and evangelists too speak to ordinary man and understand it in literal sense. And one more. The "most dangerous Devil" is not "the one you cannot see", but the one who "substantiates his teachings or demands using the "Words of God". This is true in temptation of Eve (was she a mythological figure or the real historical woman ?) as well as (historical) Jesus here. By the way... our Holy Catholic Church by "deleting the Devil" from sermons has created today's crisis....in the "Spirit of Vat. II"(the Second Pentecostes ??).

Peter Connor
5 years 2 months ago

For me, sin is personal. From what others say, it can also be organizational, but in sum, it still is personal - maybe collectively personal. I speak at treatment centers regarding my addiction (my experience, strength, and hope), and on this past Friday, I suggested to the men that a 'relapse' is in fact, an 'on purpose.' The honest look inward says it was a planned event. And the plan was suggested by the devil. I said that evil comes from inside me, parks itself on my shoulder, and talks to me. It is generous with me. It flatters me. Often, it says nothing to me. But evil is always there. When I become agitated, angry, emotionally upset or indifferent, the evil one will say it is okay for me to get loaded. It will remind me of how good being high was and how nice it felt to not have a care. The evil one in my life will try to get me to reject my relationship with God because God will take me back - will forgive me. So, what's to hurt having a little bit of fun, just for old time's sake? That to me is pure, unadulterated evil. No fire breathing monster with wings and horns and red eyes. He is inside of me, waiting for a chance to make me love him more than I love Almighty God. Beware - the evil one is closer than we think.

Brien Doyle
5 years 2 months ago

This talk about imaginary 'sins' and unbelievable tripe about devils is plain sick....

Who believes this crap in the 212st century???

Deb Brunsberg
5 years 2 months ago

Certainly not those who are completely in his power. His greatest delight is to have people not believe he exists. He doesn't even have to waste time on those who are already his.

Phillip Stone
5 years 2 months ago

Brien, about two and a half billion people believe in sin and devils.
And that is just the demographics of Christians and did not include Satanist, Muslims and witchdoctors.
What is there about this century which deludes you into thinking otherwise?

Paul Hierholzer
5 years 2 months ago

"The power of diabolic evil lies in darkness, subtlety and confusion."
Therein lies also the power of virtue.

John Edwards
5 years 2 months ago

Whenever attempted and found liable, the punishments can fluctuate contingent upon the reality of the wrongdoing and, frequently, the age of the denounced; conceivable punishments incorporate expulsion from office, limited service, "a real existence of supplication and repentance" with no open service and rejection from the administrative state.
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