Jesus refused Satan’s temptation. The bishops said “Bring it on!”

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Jesus tempted in the desert by James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum, public domain

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and was very hungry.

Meanwhile the devil[a] came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, say that these stones become bread.”

But Jesus said to him, “No! The scriptures say,

“People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said to him: “If you are the Son of God, jump! For the scriptures say, “He will command his angels to protect you.” And they will support you with their hands so that you don’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

Jesus replied, “The scriptures also say, ‘You must not try the Lord your God.'”

Then the devil took him to the top of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give you everything,” he said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say:

‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” And the devil left him till another time, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:13.

Jesus was God. Jesus was also a human being, with all the weaknesses of character, all the hungers, all the desires and all the needs that human beings experience.

The humanity of Jesus was an open door to temptation.

Satan has an easy time with us. Our wants and needs, our many hungers, leave us like sieves and defenseless against the onslaught of temptations. Our big brains and our ability to hide and lie to ourselves make us even more vulnerable. They allow us to convince ourselves that the evil we do is good, necessary to do good.

This ability to think ourselves out of our own well-deserved guilt is what allowed the head priest and his fellow priests to “reason themselves” into thinking that killing an innocent man was a good and right thing to do.

The fact that they were murdering God made flesh was beyond their calculation. Jesus prayed for them the day they murdered him, “they don’t know what they are doing” because it was true. They didn’t know He was God.

But they knew enough. They may not have known they were fabricating false charges to put to death the God they claimed to worship, but they did know they were lying and conspiring to enact the judicial murder of an innocent man.

But they convinced themselves that what they were doing was necessary and good because they also convinced themselves that political pragmatism required it. “Better that one man die than the whole nation,” they said to themselves.

This was based on another lie they told themselves, that they were doing this murder to prevent a civil uprising and Roman reprisals. In truth, these priests were political agents of the Romans. They traded the leadership position their priesthood had given them to secure a comfortable deal with the Romans for themselves. They murdered Jesus to protect their good business. They lied about Him to get it done.

But their first and worst lies were the selfish, self-apologizing, self-forgiving lies they told themselves.

When these priests decided to assassinate Our Lord, Satan had no business tempting them. They took care of it themselves. But Satan had to tempt Jesus. The devil tried to walk through the all-human door of Jesus’ human appetites.

First, he tried the simple trick he used in the Garden. “Turn these stones into bread and eat.

It’s such a simple thing to use to tempt a hungry and thirsty man. It’s as simple and obvious as biting into an apple.

“You are God. Don’t stand there hungry. Simply turn these stones into loaves of bread. What’s wrong?

What if Jesus had said “yes”?

Our paschal lamb would have been sacrificed for a loaf of bread. We would die in our sins, with no hope of redemption. Our eternity was in the balance of Jesus’ answer.

Instead of responding directly to Satan, Jesus quoted the Scriptures. “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.”

Jesus quoted the scriptures and Satan had no response.

We are tempted by Satan the same way he tempted Jesus. The difference is that no matter who we are, we are doomed to accept these temptations and fall face first into sin.

One of the most unfortunate things in Catholic culture is the claim that Holy Orders somehow protect a man from such journeys and falling into sin. I think the real truth on the matter is that satan tempts them hard because he can use their sins to lead many other people away from Christ.

Instead of engaging in some kind of quasi-worship of our priests, we – and they – need to accept the fact that they are in fact and in truth only human beings, and that because of the self-deifying things that ‘they taught us about themselves, we were led to take them and their ideas much more seriously than we should.

I am thinking in particular of the bad habit that Catholics have of taking seriously the demands of obedience from their clergy when they relate to areas totally outside the domain of competence of the clergy. The Church has repeatedly ridiculed itself in its long history by attempting to extend its rule to the realms of science and politics. Galileo comes to mind, as does the Spanish Inquisition, 2,000 years of support for legalized misogyny, the rise of Adolph Hitler and, lately, religious support for treacherous budding dictator Donald Trump.

Satan tempted our clergy the same way he tempted Our Lord. The difference being that the clergy say “yes” to all of this. They want to the kingdoms of the world, they want to money, power and adulation. They will sell their priestly heritage for this bowl of political soup just about every time the market is offered to them.

In the case of the Republicans and Trump, our religious leaders sold their moral and prophetic voice in exchange for government money, tax law changes, and preferential treatment for their interests. They’ve gone all-in for wine, meals, full-body caresses, and all the many benefits of sitting on right-hand boards and participating in right-hand foundations.

Many of our American bishops and priests have done this. If Price was going to whore after Trump, so be it. They used their power as religious leaders to get Putin’s son, Donald, to vote.

I have witnessed and at times experienced a bit of the secondary blow of outrageous clerical bullying for Trump that took place, both in the 2016 election and again in 2020. It has become totally out of about. He went far beyond spiritual leadership and sank into the quicksand of grandstanding, bullying, spiritual abuse and lies. This still continues today.

Trump was front and center and obvious about the kind of racist, woman-abusing, lying, cheating, corrupt, Putin-serving, budding tyrant he is. He has never hidden the fact that he is a terrible man with no morals or decency. He rubbed our faces there. He might as well have walked in with a sign saying, “I’m a psychopathic freak who’s going to destroy this nation.”

In 2020, there was no way the bishops and priests who were telling people they would go to hell if they didn’t vote for Trump were unaware that they were misusing their powers to push an evil man whose re-election would have taken end in the death of millions of people. It was obvious to see where this was going.

We get a small taste of the aftermath of Trump’s corruption and subservience to Putin in Ukraine today.

And this is the drama. In the game of politics, people die for your mistakes. Many people die.

If you’re still worshiping at Trump’s altar, I hope to drive you crazy. If you are a bishop who still acts as an agent of the fascist right, I hope you get smoke coming out of your ears as you read this.

I mourned my grief over the fall of the American Church into the Trump pit. Now I accept and believe there is nothing I can do about it.

I’m not trying to reason with anyone who is still in the grip of this evil that has taken hold of the Republican Party. At this point and after everything that’s happened, if you’re still worshiping Trump’s altar, if you’re still bending your faith to the Republican elephant, you’re set in stone.

No rational American would still follow this mess and I can’t put you on the medicine that will cure you.

This drug is, of course, the same one that Jesus used when Satan tempted him. It is the one that Judas did not use when he betrayed Our Lord. It is the one that Caiaphas, in his pride, would not allow himself to believe at all that he needed.

The solution to delivering your soul to a political party is simple.

Take back your soul and give it to Jesus.

Be like Christ when he was tempted. Do not rely on your pride and your human arrogance, but on God.

Comments are closed.