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Beware the Evil Disguised as Good

Life is filled with occasions of temptation and evil. We need to keep our eyes wide open as both small deceptions and large transgressions vie for the attention of our hearts.

Rich HarterGood News All the Way

A blog by Rich Harter
Director of Evangelization
Archdiocese of Milwaukee


Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’” Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “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,’ and: ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Life is filled with occasions of temptation and evil. We need to keep our eyes wide open as both small deceptions and large transgressions vie for the attention of our hearts. Clearly all evil is to be avoided, but there is a particular kind of evil that demands our greatest vigilance. We need to be most concerned with the sneaky insidious evil that comes to us masquerading as something good.

This kind of evil sneaks up on us. We enjoy wine and companionship and, before we know it, we are using these God-given gifts for our own pleasure. We buy what we rightly need as God’s children and, eventually, we are trapped in materialism as our needs turn into wants. We develop our God-given talents, but somehow this noble endeavor morphs into the pursuit of our own self-inflated glory. 

So paradoxically it’s the good that we need to be most worried about. Jesus faces the same predicament. Not so accidentally, the Devil tempts Jesus with the greatest good. He offers the gift of bread to satisfy Jesus’ forty-day hunger. He promises kingdoms of power and glory to the King of Kings. He assures the protection of angels to the one for whom an angelic army sung in recognition of his birth.

The devil fiendishly tempts Jesus with what is most good for the Son of God. But Jesus is vigilant and sees through the diabolical scheme. He understands that even the best things can lead to false satisfactions of pleasure, possessions, and glory. Circumventing the devil’s plan, Jesus pursues a different three-fold path. He sets his heart on hunger for God, worship of the Lord, and humble service.

So it turns out that Jesus has a trick up his sleeve as well. He surprises us with the Good News that the way to full pleasure, maximum possession, and greatest glory is actually discovered through the preeminent goods of hunger for God, singular worship, and self-emptying service.  Jesus gives us our marching orders for the threefold way of true discipleship.  

We shall worship the Lord, our God, and him alone shall we serve!    

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