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A Cross-less Christianity is a lie of the devil

On the Readings for Sunday, February 26, 2023, the First Sunday of Lent

Detail from "The Temptation of Christ" (1854) by Ary Scheffer (Image: WikiArt.org)

Readings:
• Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7
• Psa 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
• Rom 5:12-19
• Matt 4:1-11

“He that seeks not the cross of Christ,” wrote St. John of the Cross, “seeks not the glory of Christ.”

Put another way, a cross-less Christianity is a lie of the devil. Lent, which leads us to Holy Week and the crucifixion, is a challenging reminder of this difficult but ultimately glorious truth.

The first Adam, shaped from dust by the Creator, walked and talked with God. But then he was tested and fell in the garden. Having listened to the serpent, he succumbed to the temptations of self-will and self-love, rejecting the will and love of God. Seeking his own glory, he was banished to the dust and dryness of the world, separated from friendship with God.

Through Adam, St. Paul explained to the Christians in Rome, “sin entered the world, and through sin, death.” Sin and death have ever been with us ever since; the temptation to seek our will is constantly with us.

Severed from God’s life, what could mankind do? Look to God’s gracious gift, “the one man Jesus Christ”, the new Adam. The co-eternal Word was not created, but “begotten”, having no beginning. But although all things were created for him and through him (Col 1:15-17), he chose to be born into the fallen, desperate world of man. After being baptized in the Jordan (Matt 3:13-17) and revealing his divinity, he was then led by the Spirit into the desert to walk and talk and be fed by the Father.

Then, after forty days, he was tested by the devil. Would he, like the old Adam, listen? Would he, like the first man, give in to the lures of the tempter?

He did listen, of course. The fact is, in this world it is impossible to escape temptation. And Jesus, being fully man, really was tempted: “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Heb 2:18; cf. 4:15).

But while the old Adam did not refute the words of the serpent (and so opened himself to disaster), the Word-made-flesh rebuked the father of lies. He knew what he was facing, and he did not hesitate or second guess when the devil misused Scripture. Jesus went into the desert to battle, to fight and renounce the devil and the passing glories of this world. He knew that true glory is not found in power, but in obedient, faithful sonship.

Much has been rightly made of how Jesus rejected the same temptations—hunger, selfishness, rebellion—that had overwhelmed the Israelites in the desert (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 538-40). But the Gospel shows how Jesus emphatically distinguished himself from the many self-proclaimed messiahs, false prophets, and political zealots so common in first-century Palestine.

Turning stones into loaves of bread would have not only satisfied his hunger, but been evidence of magical powers—a most attractive quality for anyone seeking worldly attention. And commanding God to keep him from harm if he threw himself from the temple parapet would have marked him as a powerful prophet or visionary able to control the will of God.

The third temptation was the most direct and blatant. If Jesus had given up everything for political power, he would have shown himself to be a political revolutionary intent only on earthly glory and temporal power. “The devil,” writes Craig S. Keener in his commentary on Matthew (InterVarsity, 1997), “offered Jesus the kingdom without the cross, a temptation that has never lost its appeal.”

But Jesus is not a magician, a self-serving prophet, or a political zealot. He is the Son of God who came to do the Father’s will (Jn 6:38-40). The new Adam, in the garden of Gethsemane, prayed that the Father’s will would be accomplished. Tested in both desert and garden, he was glorified by and through the cross—the instrument of death which is, wrote Pope St. Leo I, “the true ground and chief cause of Christian hope.”

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the March 13, 2011, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

“The Temptation of Christ” (1854) by Ary Scheffer (Image: WikiArt.org)

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About Carl E. Olson 1233 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.

14 Comments

  1. Thank you, brother Carl, for an excellent article! The Holy Cross of Jesus is not a sad, depressing, fun-spoiling thing, just the TOTAL opposite. When Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me”, He was not punishing us, raining on our parade or calling us to a boring, dry life without any great joy. Again, just the TOTAL opposite.

    The Holy Cross, like all those that have received the prophetic gift from God, is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. We need to ask ourselves, “who of those two am I now?”. If I’m afflicted in any way, form or manner there’s no greater consolation, healing and empowerment that that found at Jesus’ Cross (New Age, etc. are just drug-like impostors). If I’m too comfortable in myself and my self-centered, self-gratifying, self-glorifying ideas and lifestyles, the Cross is a STOP sign and it will afflict me very hard with the consequences calling to wake up my conscience, in order to SAVE ME FROM MYSELF (sinful lifestyles are just a golden, popular, glorified dungeon).

    History proves again and again that we are our greatest enemies. Jesus is our greatest friend that, like all REAL friends, He will upset us greatly with His life saving advice, coming directly from His Cross of True Love! Life is ONLY, TRULY lived to the fullest from the Cross, the Holy Bridge to Total Joy (John 15:11)!!

  2. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:23-24

  3. A Fallen World requires of us the willingness to suffer, literally as Christ’s commands to lay down our life for our brother. Editor Olson’s ‘ancient’ article remains refreshingly new in the Age of Aquarius, Beaches, Sandals getaways for us to Do whatever you want anytime you want. And preempt your eternal imprisonment in a place where that choice is eternally regretted. Phil Alcoceli is right in the Cross of Christ as an instrument not of gloomy Lenten requisite rather the embrace of the infinite good of the divinity, the supreme sweetness of that love that contests with valor and compassion to save souls.

  4. The catechetical temptation and magic trick with Batzing and Hollerich is not to change stones into bread, but to change bread into a couple of stones.

  5. The beauty of Jesus’ Divine Mercy Sunday, is that Jesus grants us complete forgiveness of all punishments, which includes exile from the Garden of Eden. “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” Divine Mercy in My Soul, 699.

    It was God’s Presence on Earth, in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, which made the Garden of Eden paradise. After man sinned, God had to remove His Presence from sinful man, which is described as the fall of man. God removed His Presence from Adamkind and placed it on God’s Holy Mountain on earth. God placed Archangel Michael, with his fiery sword, blocking sinful man from God’s Presence and thus blocking sinful man from entering the Garden of Eden which God had placed upon His Holy Mountain on earth.

    Genesis 3:23
    The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken. He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

    For Jesus to Second Coming, return to earth, Archangel Michael must come first to build God’s, Zechariah 2:8, “I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst”, in order for the Presence of God to be separated from sinful people on earth. The Gates to Jesus Kingdom Come of Messianic Reign on earth were erected 2000 years ago in Jesus’ Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. The walls of Jesus Kingdom Come, which is the Revelation 21 ‘New Jerusalem’, is a wall of Catholic auto-anathemas, which kick out from Jesus’ Presence, any sinful people.

    Zechariah 2:8
    People will live in Jerusalem as though in open country, because of the multitude of men and beasts in her midst. But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.

    Thus, all Apostolic Successors have to do is to read the Revelation 10 ‘small scroll’ which is a list of, worldwide binding on all people Catholic auto-anathemas, which builds God’s fiery wall on earth and enthones Jesus as King and Ruler of the world, and Jesus Will reenter God’s Presence into His Catholic Church on earth, ‘Three Days of Darkness’ later. As with pre-fall Adam and Eve, there will not even be death anymore for Catholics in a state of grace living in Jesus’ Kingdom Come of Messianic Reign on free-willed earth.

    Obadiah 21
    And saviours shall ascend Mount Zion to rule the mount of Esau, and the kingship shall be the Lord’s.

    “O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
    by the power of God,
    thrust into hell Satan,
    and all the evil spirits,
    who prowl about the world
    seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

    Matthew 6:10 The Lord’s Prayer
    your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
    …but deliver us from the evil one.

    Divine Mercy in my Soul, 512:
    You are My great joy; your love and your humility make Me leave the heavenly throne and unite Myself with you. Love fills up the abyss that exists between My greatness and your nothingness.

    Please receive Jesus’ recent, year 2000, gifts of Divine Mercy Sunday this April 16th. Be prepared to reenter the Garden of Eden on earth, to live in the Presence of Jesus in Jesus’ Kingdom Come.

    Reentering the Garden of Eden upon Jesus’ Kingdom Come
    http://www.apocalypseangel.com/eden.html

    Jesus is Getting Married
    http://www.apocalypseangel.com/married.html

    • “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”, “and a period of peace will be granted to the world”

      It is the Blessed Mother who Commands Archangel Michael into battle against Satan on earth. As the Blessed Mother delivered our Savior of the World on Christmas morning, so will it be the Blessed Mother who prepares the earth for the Savior of the World to reenter the World as King and Ruler, under Messianic Reign on earth.

      A Portion of the Third Secret of Fatima.
      After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’…

      Revelation 12
      A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth…
      …She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne…
      … Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed.’

      Please visit the visions of St. Catherine Laboure. In the first vision we see the Blessed Mother in heaven (on the moon), not yet Coronated with twelve stars over her head, (morning stars represent world rulers (2 Samuel 23:3), which will be our Catholic clergy ruling the world under Messianic Reign), gifting us with her globe-cross. In the second vision we see the Blessed Mother Coronated with twelve stars over her head, standing on the crushed head of Satan on earth, and Blessings from Heaven raining down upon the earth from her hands.
      http://www.marys-touch.com/Saints/medal/medal.htm

      Isaiah 66:7
      Before she comes to labor, she gives birth; Before the pains come upon her, she safely delivers a male child. Who ever heard of such a thing, or saw the like? Can a country be brought forth in one day, or a nation be born in a single moment? Yet Zion is scarcely in labor when she gives birth to her children. Shall I bring a mother to the point of birth, and yet not let her child be born? says the LORD; Or shall I who allow her to conceive, yet close her womb? says your God…
      …I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.
      When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bodies flourish like the grass; The LORD’S power shall be known to his servants, but to his enemies, his wrath…
      …As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make Shall endure before me, says the LORD, so shall your race and your name endure. From one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, All mankind shall come to worship before me, says the LORD. They shall go out and see the corpses of the men who rebelled against me; Their worm shall not die, nor their fire be extinguished; and they shall be abhorrent to all mankind.

      Isaiah 27:13
      On that day, A great trumpet shall blow, and the lost in the land of Assyria and the outcasts in the land of Egypt Shall come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain, in Jerusalem.

      Numbers 10:8
      The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; this is prescribed forever for you and your descendants.

      Revelation 11:15
      Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet. There were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever’.

      Revelation 10 The Angel with the Small Scroll
      ‘There shall be no more delay. At the time when you hear the seventh angel blow his trumpet, the mysterious plan of God shall be fulfilled, as he promised to his servants the prophets.

      Acts of the Apostles 1:6, Luke 1:46, 3:4, 8:11, 22:25, Matthew 5:1, 24:29, John 15:1, 2 Chronicles 5:13, Genesis 48:21, Joel 2:15, Isaiah 9, 12, 18, 26, 33, 40, 43, 45, 49, 52, 62, Ezekiel 37:21, 34:11, Psalms 14:7, 43, 48, 75:5, 106:19, 147, Zephaniah 3:8, Jeremiah 31:12,…
      There are many more verses on Messianic Reign, but I think you get the picture.

  6. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5. The only perfect and sinless one that could pay the penalty for sins and satisfy the wrath of God. May people the world over trust in Jesus as their only hope for salvation.

  7. Thanks, dear Carl. Such a CRUCIAL matter for us Catholics, not just at Lent but always, while we are in this space-time/energy-matter universe.

    When a person hears, obeys, & loves King Jesus Christ, & picks up their cross to follow Him, they shine like stars in the dark universe (see Philippians 2:15). The rebel spirits of this present darkness (see Ephesians 6:12) will use every trick they can to try to extinguish that light. This is why true followers of Christ are instructed to expect troubles!

    The Children of our Most Blessed Mother Mary are known because they obey God’s commandments, witness to The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are persecuted by Satan (see Revelation 12:17). What don’t we understand about that . . ?

    Apart from continuous pressure from evil spiritual powers (that dependence on Christ alone preserves us from), there are numerous human beings who respond negatively (even murderously) when they sense that we love God (Matthew 10:21-28; 34-40).

    Not infrequently this hatred can come from fellow church members.

    That is the context of EVERY true follower of The Lord Jesus Christ. Our earthly lives train us in faith that overcomes the evils of the flesh, the world, & the devil. This is not negotiable. As Phil Alcoceli & Fr Peter Morello say, it is also GLORIOUS!

    To suffer, in this short life, for The Name of Jesus, is the very best thing that can happen to anyone. We rejoice. That is not masochism, it is a wise revelation of the true state of this world and of our future in eternal joy (see Hebrews 12:1-13).

    “Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection; for the sake of the joy that was still in the future He endured the cross . . .”

    Thanks again to Carl & to all the good commenters.

    Always in the love of The Lamb; blessings from marty

    • Dear Dr Marty:

      Our salvation is given freely by God to us. This grace note is not to be buried but, shared with others.

      Our sanctification is the difficult work, yet God is with us. Every day we confess our sins and take up the mantle of godliness by forgiving those who have trespassed against us. We bear with one another and if we slip, the Moderator helps (when responding on CWR). 🙂

      Our walk with God is so precious, we make mistakes, yet God is ever at work sanctifying and moving us forward. Each persons perspective is slightly different, giving us insight and causing us to reflect. We are blessed by have strong men and women of faith that we learn from and grow at CWR.

      1 Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

      John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

      1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

      1 Peter 1:2 According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

      1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      God bless you dear brother,

      Brian

  8. Just a trivial observation about the Ary Scheffer artwork.

    If Satan appeared in the form of a naked brown man, with black wings, whenever he wanted to tempt us, we might doubt that anyone would be trapped into sin!

    The devil does his demonic work through insidious whispers and staged circumstances that he tailors to the weaknesses in each person’s devotion to God. We need maturity in Christ to begin to discern the shape of this evil being who works on a daily basis to steal our eternal soul.

    With a regular prayer life & a regular sacramental life & the support of other good Catholic Christians & by paying attention to our ‘armor’ (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we will have the victory and become mature in Christ.

    Too many identify other people as satanic. Yet, Satan is much more subtle than that.

    It is a spiritual battle & we must be equipped spiritually to win through.

    Ever in the victory of The Lamb of God; love & blessings from marty

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