“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
Temptation is everywhere, now more than ever it seems. All the more reason to ponder the Scripture passage that relates to the temptation of Christ in the wilderness.
World structures–both physical and societal–are falling apart. The shifting sand that was the foundation of so many earthly structures is now proving how unstable it really was. Until relatively recently, we in the West have enjoyed a religious liberty that has allowed us to practice our faith freely. But we can see the winds of change starting to increase in ferocity.
Our Lord has send many messengers in this age, most notably his own Holy Mother. We are being prepared for our own temptation in the wilderness, a time when perhaps, like Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Catholic martyred for the Faith by Jihadists, we will be asked to take a stand, no matter the consequences. Mr. Bhatti was the only Christian member of the Parliament of Pakistan, a man who incurred the wrath of extremists by condemning Pakistan’s blasphemy law and defending Asia Bibi. She is in prison, condemned to death for being a Christian.
What speaks very loudly is the lack of protest against the persecution of Christians in society. We hear far more about the incoherent ramblings of drug-addicted TV stars than about the real dangers faced by Christians in many places in the world—and increasingly our own countries.
In Egypt the army itself has attacked Coptic Christian monasteries, in one instance they used tanks! Against this use of force, what was the monks’ response? They staged a sit-in. The Coptic Christians in Cairo have organized peaceful protests in support of them. Their peaceful actions spoke far louder than the guns being used against them.
Then there was the Christian couple in England, Eunice and Owen Johns, foster parents of 15 children over the years, who have been denied permission to foster more children specifically because of their Christian beliefs. This is a result of the ‘Equality Act Sexual Orientation Regulations’ that were passed in 2007 in England. Things are heating up this side of the pond as well. The gospel of “tolerance” has its share of hypocrites.
No doubt our faith will be put to the test sooner rather than later. We may not be tortured or killed, but persecution can take many forms, many of which are subtle or seductive. Perhaps we will not be able to borrow money, open a bank account, purchase goods, or hold a job unless we agree to what the culture of death has proclaimed to be “true”. The temptations will be great indeed!
What did Jesus do in his time of temptation? He turned to the Word. Now is the time to fortify ourselves in the Word—in Scripture and in the person of Jesus through prayer—and with fasting. Fasting strengthens the soul. As we enter into our own pre-Christmas fast, let us pray for strength for ourselves and all those being persecuted for their faith. Let us also immerse ourselves in the Word, for man does not live by bread alone. And let us remember that should the dark day come when the Word itself is forbidden, we still have the rosary, which is the Word written on our hearts. That is why the enemy fears it so much.
I want to close with the beautiful words of that modern-day Christian martyr, Shahbaz Bhatti, “As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.” Shahbas Bhatti, and all Christian martyrs, pray for us.