Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread,” 4 He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone,’” 7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself to worship me.” 10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
“He has mentioned three realities and you shall not find any other thing in which the weakened human appetite is put to the test that may not be concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes or worldly ambition. The devil used these three appetites to put the Lord to the test. He used the concupiscence of the flesh to test him when, after a period of fasting, he felt hungry, saying: If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. But how did he repel the tempter? As if training a soldier to fight? Pay attention how he replied: Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
The Lord was also put to the test by the concupiscence of the eyes. The devil demanded a miracle from him when he said: Throw yourself down, because it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to support you with their hands, lest you dash your foot against the stone. The Lord resists the tempter. Actually had he performed a miracle he would have given the impression either that he consented to the tempter or that he acted moved by the desire to arouse curiosity. He performed a miracle when he wanted as God to heal the sick. Had he performed a miracle then, it would have been thought that he performed the miracle for its own sake. But watch carefully that he responded in such a way that people may not see it that way, and when you undergo a similar temptation, you also respond similarly: Be gone, satan, because it is written: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, i.e., if I do what you suggest, I would be putting God to the test. He said what he wants you to say. When the enemy suggests to you: “Come on man! Come on you secular Christian! You have not performed a simple miracle, the dead have not risen through your prayers, nor have you cured any fever. If you are truly of any class, you would perform a miracle. He answers him in these words: It is written: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. I will not ask the Lord for a miracle as though it belongs to him only the performance of miracle and not the case of not performing it. If that were true, what would become of the words: Rejoice and be glad for your names are written in heaven.
How did the devil use the “worldly ambition” to tempt the Lord? He brought him to a very high elevation and said: All this I will give to you, if you prostrate before me and worship me. He wanted to tempt the king of the ages by passing through to the heights, which meant to be the king of the earth. But the Lord, who made heaven and earth, trampled the devil. What did he answer then, if not what he teaches you to answer? It is written: You shall adore the Lord your God, and him alone shall you serve.
Observing this manner of acting, you will lack the concupiscence of the world; when you lack the concupiscence of the world, neither shall the desire of the flesh dominate you, nor the desire of the eyes nor the desire of worldly ambition, and you will make space for charity that comes to you so that you may love God. If the love of the world were present there, the love of God would not be there. Bring in therefore the love of God so that, since God is eternal, you also will remain eternally, since every person is according to his love (ep. Io. tr. 2,14).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
- “It is written: Man does not live by bread alone” (Mt. 4:4).
- Up to what point do the satisfying things of this world alienate you from God?
- What is it that really gives meaning to your life, that makes you go on living?
- In lacking the concupiscence of the world, the desire of the flesh will neither dominate you, nor the desires of the eyes, nor worldly ambition, and you will make space for charity that will come to you so that you may love God” (ep. Io. tr. 2, 14).
- How can you make space for God in your life?
- What temptations impeded you from belonging completely to God?
- Pray with this phrase: “Lead us not into temptation.”
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate Christ conquering the temptations of satan. Ask him that you also be able to overcome the temptations that confront you every day. Contemplate and ask for strength.
- Contemplate humbly and truthfully your more frequent temptations. Acknowledge your weakness and your feebleness, and ask for help from God. As you contemplate you can repeat: “Give what you command and command what you will” (conf. 10, 40).
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God especially as regards overcoming temptation and living for God. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our feebleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind, and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation. Prayer reminds you that you need the help of your Lord, that you should not put hope in yourself to live justly” (ep. 218, 3).