My question may seem controversial to you, but I’m reading the Gospel regularly and I have no one to whom I can talk about my doubts. I have many, but today I take the liberty of sending one to you: what is the meaning of Jesus’temptations? Could Jesus yield to the Devil? And the same for Mary: could she (out of free will!) answer negatively to the Angel’s announcement?
Thank you for the help you may want to give me,
Answer from the priest
1. in no way could Jesus yield to the devil, having incarnated exactly to come and defeat the devil.
It should also be remembered that, as a man, Jesus was confirmed in grace. This means that there was theimpossibility for him to yield to the flattery of the evil one.
In Christ, this impossibility to sin was intrinsic, due to the fullness of grace and the perfect accord of his human will with the divine one.
In all the other people confirmed in grace, the impossibility of sinning is extrinsic. That is, it is due to the abundance of grace they received and to a special assistance from the divine.
Even as a man, Christ did not need divine assistance, because he was God.
2. The reasons why Christ accepted to be tempted by the devil are presented in an admirable way by Saint Thomas, who states that temptations could only come to Christ from without, while to us they come from without and from within.
And he was tempted because he wanted to be tempted, because the devil himself could only be terrified to be in his presence and flee.
3. Here are the reasons why he wanted to be tempted:
“Christ wanted to be tempted, first, to help us against temptations.
This is why St. Gregory says: ‘It was not unworthy of our Redeemer to submit himself to temptation, since he had come to let himself be killed; overcoming thus our temptations through his, as with his death he defeated our death’ (In Evang. hom. 16)”.
This means that through fasting and his temptations, he wanted to give us strength to open our hearts to welcome the Gospel and to overcome every temptation.
4. “Second, for our admonishment: so that no one, however holy, may believe himself safe and immune from temptation.
For this reason he wanted to be tempted right after his baptism; because, as St. Hilary says, ‘the devil launches his attacks on the saints more than on everyone else, since a victory won over them is more coveted by him’ (in Mt 3). Hence we read: ‘My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials’ (Sir 2:1)”.
This note by St. Thomas is interesting especially for priests. If a priest falls, those who have been entrusted to him will fall more easily.
5. Third, to give us an example: that is, to teach us to overcome the temptations of the devil. Therefore St. Augustine states that Christ “gave himself up to being tempted by the devil to be our mediator in overcoming temptations, not only with his help, but also with his example” (De Trin. 4,13).
In all the answers to the various seductions of the devil, Jesus responds with a quotation from Scripture. This means that we must always carry with us the word of the Lord, to carry it as leaven within our actions.
6. Fourth, to encourage us to trust in his mercy.
Therefore, we read in the Letter to the Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).
So no one can say: Jesus did not know what it means to be tempted!
And exactly because Christ knows what it means to be subject to various temptations, he comes to meet us with his mercy.
7. Furthermore, according to St. Thomas, there was a special reason why Jesus did not want to be tempted in the flesh.
Here it is: “The temptation that comes from the enemy can be without sin, because in itself it consists of a pure external suggestion.
On the other hand, the temptation of the flesh cannot be without sin, because it derives from pleasure and concupiscence; and according to St. Augustine, ‘there is always something sinful when the flesh has desires contrary to those of the spirit’ (De civ. Dei, 19:4).
This is why Christ wanted to be tempted by the enemy, but not by the flesh”.
8. In the case of Our Lady, I have already recalled in a previous reply (20th September 2010) what Fr. Reginado Garrigou-Lagrange wrote:
“In Mary there was a special assistance from Providence, which even better than in the state of innocence preserved all her faculties from deviations and, even in the most painful circumstances, kept her soul in the most perfect generosity.
This preserving assistance was an effect of Mary’s predestination, just as confirmation in grace is an effect of the predestination of the saints.
This preservation from sin, far from diminishing Mary’s freedom or free will, meant that she had full freedom in the direction of good without any deviation towards evil, just as her intelligence never deviated towards error.
Thus her freedom, as an example of that of the holy soul of Jesus, was a very pure image of God’s freedom, which is both sovereign and flawless” (La Mère du Sauveur, pp. 58-59).
I emphasize the beautiful expression of Fr. Garrigou: Mary’s freedom “was a very pure image of God’s freedom”, of that freedom that is both sovereign and flawless at the same time.
Therefore Our Lady, by virtue of her very high degree of love and humility was preserved by God not only from the possibility of sinning but also from any imperfection of her acts.
In this way, she was prepared to be a worthy Mother of the Savior.
I wish you well, I remember you in prayer and I bless you.