"Lead Us Not Into Temptation..."

“The way this petition is phrased,” writes Pope Benedict XVI, "is shocking for many people: God certainly does not lead us into temptation. In fact, as Saint James tells us: ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one’(James 1:13).” (Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 160-1) Indeed the pope has it right; this petition is probably one of the hardest to understand among all the petitions of the Our Father, at least in terms of its structural make-up.

There is a definite aide to our understanding, though, coming from Scripture, which the Holy Father points out immediately: “‘Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4:1). Temptation comes from the devil, but part of Jesus’ messianic task is to withstand the great temptations that have led man away from God and continue to do so. As we have seen, Jesus must suffer through these temptations to the point of dying on the Cross, which is how he opens the way of redemption for us… ‘For we have not a high priest [i.e. Jesus Christ] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb 4:15).” (p. 161) Referring to these particular passages from Scripture, it becomes a little easy to see what Christ means when he instructs us to pray this rather odd petition; in a profound sense—and in conjunction with Scripture as a whole—he is showing us his own role as Savior and his own willingness to be subject to human temptation.

On a slightly philosophic note… Catholic theology reveals Satan as “[deriding] man in order to deride God… The reality is that the only thing man—each man—ever cares about is his own well-being,” according to Satan. (p. 161) Ironically, a similar vein emerges in Platonic philosophy, particularly in the Republic, where Thrasymachus attests that virtue (specifically ‘justice’) is the “advantage of the stronger.” While these two instances—revelation and philosophy—seem quite separate, the fact that human nature is automatically inclined to see goodness as “what’s-good-for-me-now,” the same offered by the devil, makes it ever more clear where the role of Jesus Christ comes into play; as completely man and completely God, he really is able to redeem fallen humanity by taking on the fullness of human misery, even the natural human tendency toward self-comfort. In this way, when we pray “lead us not into temptation,” we should always remember not only our own temptations, but also those endured by our God for love of us. Ultimately, this greater mystery will lead us more fully to the presence of God, Our Father.

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    # by Anonymous - October 10, 2007 at 1:02 PM

    Christopher West uses a great example in his TOB presentations that r/t your thoughts about true freedom in your posts of yesterday & today. He says whenever a man comes up to him at a conference & says "the celibate men in Rome don't have any business telling me what to do in my bedroom" (I remember my dad actually saying the same thing when I was growing up), West says, "well, then, why not kill your wife?".
    When they sputter "Of course I wouldn't kill my wife. What does that have to do with it?", West says "The celibate men in Rome tell you not to do that too & you don't have a problem with it because that law is written in your heart. You're truly free when it comes to not murdering your wife because you've internalized the truth of that teaching. The reason you resent the truth about what to do in your bedroom is because you're not free when it comes to that & you're not free because you're denying the truth. Once you accept it in your heart, your sex life will be just as free as your compliance with the fifth commandment."