Perhaps it may seem strange that on this 25th anniversary of this Jewish boy’s ordination as a Catholic priest that I should write about the terrible temptation of the most blessed virgin and immaculate Mother of God, who, free from original sin, suffered none of the effects of original sin and therefore could not be tempted by way of any weakness.
But, not to worry, this Missionary of Mercy is not a heretic nor someone who is so ungrateful that he is out to insult his own mother. On the contrary, I publish what is written here because of profound gratitude for what this good mom of Jesus went through for me, for you.
Let’s remember firstly that her Divine Son, also free from original sin and who also could not be tempted through any weakness brought about because of original sin was also horrible tempted many times, but, as it were, from the outside, by way of Satan. You’ll remember the forty days and nights of fasting and prayer accomplished by Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism in the river Jordan by John, the baptism being about Jesus standing in our stead, taking on the death we deserve for sin, so that he might have the right in his own justice to have mercy on us, kind of forcing the hand of his heavenly father to treat him like the worst sinner ever, the one who enslaved everyone in sin from Adam until the last man is conceived, the drowning in the water thing being analogy to Egyptians, who had enslaved them for physical labor were drowned in the sea at the time of the exodus.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'” Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
It’s instructive also to us that Jesus answered not with a mind-game on the level of Satan, but instead raised the stakes each time, speaking of his relationship with his heavenly Father, love winning every time:
- One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
- You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
- The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.
But there’s one more temptation of Jesus. You’ll remember the agony in the garden when Jesus, in a great sweat of blood, in terrible suffering, said his Yes! to our heavenly Father:
- Not my will but thine be done.
It’s not that he was being tempted by our heavenly Father, but it was the fact of his having to make a choice to follow that will. Would he allow Mary to suffer so much?
One of the saints, I think Saint Bernard – correct me if I’m wrong – said that the great suffering of our Lord was about not wanting Mary, his Mother, to suffer because of his dire straits. He couldn’t bear to see her suffer, to see her pierced through with sorrow, something which would surely happen under the cross at a moment you might not expect, that is, when Jesus hands us all over to that Woman when he says to John, “Behold, your Mother,” and to her, “Behold, you son,” pointing her to John (and us). We’re quite the sorry lot, after all!
But as for Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane, the time of his Yes! to our heavenly Father, was for him the time of greatest temptation, just so for Mary her time of greatest time of temptation was when she was asked to asked by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Immaculate Mother of God. She could have said No! She knew exactly what she was facing. Those who have purity of heart and agility of soul see reality head on, fully, clearly. She saw the terrible suffering of her Son in the future, she saw how ungrateful we would be in our sin, torturing him to death. But there is more, so much more.
She knew that despite her not being touched by original sin that she still had to be redeemed. What Jesus would do on the cross was also for her. Would she permit this, could she? How could she? And this is the magnificence of her humility, that she will let herself by loved by the Most High who done such great things for her, just as she sings in her magnificat hours later in her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth.
But having said that, part of her agony, her temptation in her choice, was the fact that I myself would be so ungrateful as to crucify the Son of the Living God, the Son of the Immaculate Conception, with my sin, original sin and whatever rubbish I’ve done. The choice of Jesus and Mary was to let each other suffer for the sake of the will of our heavenly Father, who through them wanted to have us redeemed and saved and brought to heaven to be given as a gift back to himself.
All we can do in following the will of God, our Yes! to our heavenly Father, is to say “Thank you!” to Jesus and to Mary, the Immaculate Conception.
After 25 years of priesthood, I have much for which to be thankful.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Mary.
Oh, and the flowers for the Immaculate Conception? The florabunda rose called Our Lady of Guadalupe sent in by a reader: