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  • Devin O'Donnell

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem and life in the fast lane

We pray this almost every day. And yet it says in Matthew that after he was baptized, "he was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (4:1). What does it mean? Does this mean that we are asking God to remove hard things from us? No. What it means, in Matthew Henry's words, is that we might "be prepared to resist the tempter, and not to become tempters of others." But how can we resist temptation if we are so used to giving into our desires? If we have never built up the muscles of self-denial or tightened the sinews of temperance, then how can we expect to resist the tempter? In other words, if we have never formed habits where we say no to any desire that might wish to be gratified, then the likelihood that we will resist temptation when it comes is very, very low.


This is why it is important to consider the Lenten season as practice of the Christian virtue of self-denial, not in the abstract but in the concrete activity of fasting. Now, self-denial is not self-abnegation, akin to some Buddhist monk who contradicts existence itself. Self-denial is simply what it takes to be a follower of Christ: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24). Why does Jesus say this? Because he realizes that saying no to some things is the sine qua non of success in other things. Remember C. S. Lewis' admonition: the head rules the belly through the chest. Virtue of denying self and putting God (and others) is critical. Man does not live by bread alone. This why slowing down is actually the best way to live life in the fast lane.


Here is the agenda for today.


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