Is there a logic to the order of Jesus’ 3 Temptations?


Father Fortea, what order do the three temptations of Jesus in the desert follow? Is there any significance to this order?

In the synoptic gospels, we see how the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness immediately prior to the start of His public ministry (see Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:9-15; Lk 4:1-13). These temptations were those of bread, power, and worldly recognition. Now then, why would the devil tempt Jesus to worship him when he did not even get Him to break His fast? In the end, why did he tempt Jesus with jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple? If Jesus had already rejected the glory of the whole world, why is the devil’s last temptation seemingly so minor?

At first sight, it seems logical that the devil’s temptations of Jesus would have started with the greatest sin, and not achieving this, the devil would have moved on to lesser sins. So he would first tempt Jesus with idolatry and follow up with something that is not even a venial sin, such as breaking a voluntary fast.

But one’s first impression is that the succession of the devil’s temptations does not follow a logical order. Actually, the succession of the devil’s attack follows a more subtle logic. It follows the order of temptations that a soul suffers when it decides to move forward with living a spiritual life. That is why there is a deep symbolism in these three temptations. The devil first tempts Jesus with things of the flesh, symbolized by the bread. This temptation symbolizes what the ascetic calls the “night of the senses.” If the soul resists this type of temptation (i.e., all the bodily appetites), there is no reason for the devil to continue tempting in this way because the soul has fortified itself against it. Having passed through the night of the senses, the devil then tempts with the world. The soul feels the beauty and attractions of the world that it has left. This is a symbol of the “night of the spirit.”

Here, the soul is tempted by the world in which it lives but no longer enjoys. If this temptation is resisted, one final danger remains: pride. This is pride in the gifts one has received from God.

These three temptations symbolize the phases of temptations we go through in the spiritual life. It has to be added that, concretely, those which the devil used with Jesus were especially subtle:

-First, the devil tempted Jesus not with sin but with imperfection. He was asked to stop doing a good, i.e., his fasting, and turn stones into bread.

-Then, He was tempted with the spiritual good of the world. It is as if the devil were saying, “Make a sign of acknowledgment toward me, proud as I am, and, as a reward, I will put myself at your side. All I ask is that you acknowledge me, and I will help you in your work of saving souls. Are you not humble? Are you not capable of lowering yourself a little more for the eternal good of souls?” This second temptation is packed with tremendous spiritual meaning. Jesus was not asked to stop being God; He was only asked to humble Himself a bit more. Could not the Just One, who had made so many sacrifices for souls, make one more? It is the temptation to do a little evil so as to achieve a great good.

-The final temptation is that of pride – to be publicly recognized. It was to prescind from the fact that it is God, in His time, who exalts His servants. Here, the devil was saying, “Even though God decides the time and the moment, why not bring the moment forward? Why remain in obscurity when so much good can be done by coming out into the light in a glorious and spectacular way?” We can see that this third temptation is the most complex and subtle of all.

Editor’s Note:  To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book, Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.

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God’s Mercy is for all….

Today’s scriptures encourage us to rejoice for “the Lord is kind and full of compassion.

He is slow to anger,” “abounding in love.”  God is very different to you and I.  The first reading illustrates this “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways.”

I recently saw the movie “Dead Man Walking” which I think highlights this difference.  It is a movie about a prisoner on death row, who has committed the most heinous crime.  The parents of the brutally murdered want to watch his execution.  They are understandably very hurt and angry.  The inmate befriends a nun, but he is not yet prepared to take responsibility for his crimes, and he even denies any wrong doing.  The families of the murdered are angry with the nun for visiting him.  The nun understands that God’s mercy is for everyone, and that the inmate is a very wounded and confused man.  She also knows that he must reconcile himself with God before he dies by taking responsibility for what he has done.  She perseveres continuing to show love, kindness and compassion.  She gives the man hope, and as in today’s Gospel, at the eleventh hour he admits his crime.  He is ready to enter the landowner’s vineyard.  He subsequently seeks forgiveness from the victim’s parents.  He has had an encounter with God’s mercy, and this transforms him.  This in turn helps others to heal too.  One of the parents goes to his funeral.

Today’s Gospel shows how we can be selfish and begrudge others.  We see things in a limited way: through our own eyes, and experiences.  ONLY God sees objectively.  He alone knows people’s motivations and individual circumstances.  The labourers in the Gospel, who had been hired late in the day, told the landowner that they were idle because no one had “hired them.”  It wasn’t necessarily their fault.  Things are never black and white.  None of us are perfect, and none of us are free from making mistakes.  The saints are the ones who understand this best.  They are most in tune their own sinfulness, and consequently, they are the last to judge others.  St John of the Cross compares us to a window.  Only when the sun shines on the window do we see the marks, and defects.  Likewise, when we come closer to God, His light shines on our lives, and we see our own marks and defects.  We live in a society where we judge by people’s mistakes, and certain people are judged to be bad, and others judged to be good.  Jesus told us that “only God is good.”

God’s mercy is abundant, and far exceeds any sin.  Today’s psalm showed us that God is “close to all who call on Him from their heart.”   This is the key to unlocking God’s mercy.  We must have a contrite heart.  We are encouraged by the many contrite hearts in the Gospels, from the good thief on the cross, to the adulterous woman, to Zaccheus up the tree, to the prodigal son.  We are guaranteed God’s forgiveness if we ask Him with a sincere heart.

Maybe there is someone in our lives that we struggle to forgive.  It’s not easy for us, maybe impossible on our own, but if we ask God for help then we can forgive, and show mercy.

Let’s try and ask for that help today.

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Do You Know How Much God loves you?

About Fr. Michael Najim

Fr. Michael Najim is a priest of the Diocese of Providence. He is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and serves as chaplain of LaSalle Academy, a coed Catholic high school in Providence, RI. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians, published by the Institute for Priestly Formation. He also blogs at

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Pope compares married life to Israel in the desert

The Pope recalled that in their journey through the desert, the people of Israel “became impatient on the way” (Num. 21:4). “They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagee in a time of crisis,” he preached. “And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses … They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.”

Pope Francis continued:

Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way,” the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavor of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating.”

During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.

What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison … The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment. To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.

Pope Francis also emphasized the complementarity of the sexes within marriage.

“This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man,” he said. “This is the task that you both share. ‘I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman’; ‘I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man.’”

“Here we see the reciprocity of differences,” he continued. “The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life!”

With thanks to

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Pope Francis: one can speak of’ a 3rd world war already occurring

Pope Francis traveled to Italy’s World War I War Memorial in Fogliano Redipuglia on September 13 to commemorate the centenary of the war’s beginning and to pray for the victims of all wars.

The war memorial is located in northeastern Italy at the site of several battles between Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces. Traveling by air from the Vatican, he stopped to pray at the Austro-Hungarian cemetery, where nearly 15,000 are buried, and laid a wreath on a grave.

He then proceeded to the Italian war memorial, where 100,187 war dead, the majority unidentified, are buried. Concelebrating Mass with bishops from Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia, Pope Francis linked the decision to go to war to the words of Cain in the Book of Genesis:

Greed, intolerance, the lust for power: these motives underlie the decision to go to war, and they are too often justified by an ideology; but first there is a distorted passion or impulse. Ideology is presented as a justification and when there is no ideology, there is the response of Cain: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9). War does not look directly at anyone, be they elderly, children, mothers, fathers…. “What does it matter to me?”

Above the entrance to this cemetery, there hangs in the air those ironic words of war, “What does it matter to me?” Each one of the dead buried here had their own plans, their own dreams… but their lives were cut short. Humanity said, “What does it matter to me?”

Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.

In all honesty, the front page of newspapers ought to carry the headline, “What does it matter to me?” Cain would say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

“Today, too, the victims are many,” he continued. “How is this possible? It is so because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms, which seem to be so important! And these plotters of terrorism, these schemers of conflicts, just like arms dealers, have engraved in their hearts, ‘What does it matter to me?’”

The Pope concluded:

With the heart of a son, a brother, a father, I ask each of you, indeed for all of us, to have a conversion of heart: to move on from “What does it matter to me?”, to tears: for each one of the fallen of this “senseless massacre,” for all the victims of the mindless wars, in every age. Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep.

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Love One Another

Our Lord challenges us to love, as He has loved, especially those we find most difficult.

The Servant of God, Cardinal Van Thuan, who was imprisoned for 13 years, by the Communist Government, said “it would be so wonderful if God required us only to love Him.  However, He has chosen also to require the difficult obligation to love our neighbour.”

For many different reasons some people will naturally be more difficult for us to like than others, but we can love them.  We can pray for them, wish them well, hope for their eternal salvation, and do kind acts for them.  This is the challenge of living out the Gospel.  This is being a light to the world.

There is a tradition which says, that when John the Apostle or Evangelist, lived on the island of Patmos, he used to have mass each Sunday.  People would flock to Patmos from the surrounding islands.  They noticed that each Sunday he would give the same homily “love one another.”  He was once asked why do you always give the same homily, and he said “this was what the master kept saying to us.”

Love is the Christian vocation.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, helps us to heed the commandment Jesus left His followers the night before He died “love one another as I have loved you.”  AMEN.

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Why we celebrate Our Lady’s Sorrows

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

For centuries the faithful have meditated on 7 of Our Lady’s principal sorrows, also known as her 7 Dolores.  Countless people, myself included, who have faced great difficulties, have gained perspective and consolation, through meditation on Our Lady’s great hope and trust, in the face of tribulation.

Today’s Gospel introduces us to one of Mary’s great sorrows – learning that as Christ’s mother she would suffer in a unique and particular way.  Those who suffer rejection, who are misunderstood, who lose children, who mourn, who become refugees, who are falsely accused, who experience anger and hatred, amongst many others, can find refuge in Mary’s sorrows.

Mary is our model in faith, because her belief in God’s goodness always was greater, than her sorrows.

This is what God wants from us above all – not to be the best and successful at anything, but a response of faith, to trust in Him.  This is why the Church celebrates today’s feast day.  We don’t rejoice because Mary suffered.  We rejoice today rather because of Mary’s beautiful faith – her trust in God’s love and His goodness.

Yesterday, we saw that the cross is exalted because it reminds us of God’s unfathomable love, and likewise Mary’s sufferings are exalted, because they remind us of her great faith, and her great love for God.

Mary’s faith consoles us, and we gain assurance that our problems don’t have the last word.  We rejoice because one of us continued to persevere in her faith, and to trust above all else in God’s goodness and His Love.

Last Monday, on the feast of Our Lady’s Birthday, Pope Francis spoke of 3 lessons we can learn from Mary’s life.  He spoke about her great joy, her desire to help others, and her perseverance in faith.

Perhaps we can try and imitate Mary’s great faith in these three ways.  Let us ask Our Blessed Mother to help us to be joyful Christians, to help others without hesitation, and to persevere in our faith.  AMEN.

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3 Lessons From Our Lady – Pope Francis

Mary has three very important lessons for today’s Christians, the pope said in a written message to Cuban bishops marking Sept. 8 as the feast of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.

He said Mary teaches people to experience the joy of Christ and share it with others; to never let adversity beat you down; and always help those in need with love and mercy, he said.

The pope said people should imitate how Mary responded to God’s call with her same joy, haste and perseverance, the pope said.

“Every time I read sacred Scripture, in the verses that talk about Our Lady, three verbs catch my attention,” the pope said.

The three kinds of action — be joyful, help without hesitation and persevere, should be “put into practice” by all Catholics, he added.

Whoever discovers Jesus will be “filled with an inner joy so great that nothing and no one can take it away,” he said.

With Christ in their lives, people find the strength and hope “not to be sad and discouraged, thinking problems have no solution.”

For the second action, people should always rise “in haste,” just like Mary, to help others in need, he said.

“Victory is to those who repeatedly rise up, without getting discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot sit with our arms crossed, just complaining or perhaps avoiding any effort so that others do what is our responsibility,” he said.

Making a difference and helping others does not have to be done on a grand scale, he said, but entails doing everyday things “with tenderness and mercy.”

“The third verb is to persevere,” the pope said.

Mary relied on God and his goodness for the strength and courage needed to stay by Christ’s side no matter what and to encourage his disciples to do the same.

“In this world in which long-lasting values are rejected and everything is changing, in which the disposable triumphs, in which it seems people are afraid of life’s commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and women who are constant in their good works, who keep their word, who are always faithful,” the pope said.

Cuban bishops visited the Vatican in late August for the installation of their gift, a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, which was placed in the Vatican Gardens.

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“If only God required us to love only HIM……..”

“It would be so wonderful if God required us only to love Him.  

However, He has chosen also to require the difficult obligation to love our neighbour.”

Cardinal Van Thuan (during his 8 years of imprisonment by the communist government)

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What the KORAN says about JESUS

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