Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Dealing with power, possession, prestige
Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to resist temptations
March 4, First Sunday of Lent
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What is your greatest temptation?
2. How do we become "tempters" of others?
3. What does "And lead us not into temptation" mean to you?
Part of the human condition is temptation. Adam and Eve dealt
with it in Eden's garden and were not successful. Jesus dealt
with temptation in the desert and did not yield. All of us, at
home and work, in play or illness face those stirrings, impulses,
leanings that take us away from God's presence and love.
Jesus dealt with the big three: power, possession, prestige.
Through fasting and prayer his fidelity to the Father's will did
not falter. With clarity of vision only one thing mattered: God's
reign in the human heart. The seduction of power, the enticement
of possessions and the lure of prestige could not trap his heart.
What are some of the temptations of our twenty-first century?
Near the top of the list is AUTONOMY. As Mary Pipher writes in
her study of the elderly in Another Country, "Autonomy is king."
We are tempted to go it alone living in the illusion that we are
handsomely independent. What could be further from the truth? The
briefest consciousness of the air around us highlights our utter
dependency upon such natural resources as air and water to say
nothing of our supreme dependence upon God.
Moses, in our first reading, reminds his people that it was God
who "gave us the land flowing with milk and honey." Yet the
people forgot about the generosity of God and slid into a false
autonomy. This probably caused Moses to pull out his hair making
him the first bald prophet in history.
A second temptation in our times is a form of TOLERANCE that
refuses to embrace any sort of judgment. Lacking standards,
anything goes. As long as a person is sincere, that's all that
matters. Jesus did not tolerate the Pharisees' hypocrisy nor
Peter's judgments based merely on human standards. Toleration of
abortion in the name of choice highlights how far tolerance is
from Gospel values. The flip side is no less acceptable: it is
judgmentalism based, not on intrinsic human and Gospel values,
but on mere customs or narrow traditions.
A third seduction, not unlike one of those Jesus faced in the
desert, is the temptation of the "now only." This is not the
graced experience of the sacrament of the moment wherein we
recognize and respond to God's presence in the sunrise, the
invitation to the cross, the kindness unexpected. Rather, we are
tempted to act as if "this is it," letting the future be damned.
St. Paul and Moses and Jesus keep reminding us that the past,
present and future are all important on our pilgrim journey.
It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we will be
able to resist the kingship of autonomy, the spinelessness of
exaggerated tolerance, the unreality of immediacy. The same
Spirit that led Jesus into the desert and protected him there is
the Spirit given to us by the risen Lord. We have nothing to
During the Eucharistic prayer we pray together the "Our Father."
During this prayer given by Jesus we request: "Do not lead us
into temptation but deliver us from evil." When prayed with
sincerity and from the heart, our request will be granted.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)