Wednesday, February 24, 2010

temptations come in threes

the "temptation of Christ" by Michael Pacher, 1471-1481...

I have to share this simply because it is amazing. It's about the temptation of Christ, recounted in the synoptic gospels and proclaimed at the beginning of every Lent.

The temptation of Christ is the "undoing" of the original Fall. I first heard this from Dr Brant Pitre, and then I was reminded of it from a post on the blog he shares with some other scholars:

Here's the basic point. Using the threefold structure, you can line up the Original Fall with Christ's temptations, which line up quite well with the three-fold Lenten work of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

It works like this:

In Genesis 2, Eve saw that the fruit was “good for food, pleasing to the eye, and to be desired to make one wise.” We usually pass over this quickly ("ok, so she wanted the fruit..."), but nothing in the Bible is accidental. Look closely:

Good for food = temptation to love sensual pleasure over God

Pleasing to the eye = temptation love glory, beauty over God

Desired to make one wise = temptation to love self over God

visual aids!


Christ is also tempted in three ways: To turn stones into bread, to worship Satain in exchange for glory of kingdoms, and to test God by leaping from temple.

Anything look familiar?

To turn stones into bread = temptation to love sensual pleasure over God

To worship Satain in exchange for glory of kingdoms = temptation love glory, beauty over God

To test God by leaping from temple = temptation to love self over God

Of course, the eternal Son of God did not need to be tested through his temptation--but we do. So His threefold temptation--and threefold victory--is available to us through the season of Lent. We do this through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Funny, there's that number three again...

Fasting: loving God more than our sensual pleasure

Almsgiving: loving God more than the beautiful things of creation

Prayer: loving God more than our own self

John Bergsma points out in his blog the very cool point that the kings of Israel were called to overcome this threefold temptation, too, in Deut 17:16-17, but we'll leave that alone for now. Since we share in Christ's kingship from our baptism, it's a point well taken.

And about a zillion more like it could be made. The Bible is a great symphony of God's plan for his creation. And this theme of threefold desire--present in the Fall, Christ's temptation, and our Lenten struggles--is one of the great ways that He is, this Lent, undoing the fall in those who permit it. God grant us a blessed Lent!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

following Christ up the mountain in prayer, rain

A few days back I had the blessing of leading the Eucharistic procession at the Diocesan Youth Rally for Life at Arizona State University. Climbing up the ASU mountain in silence, with an army of prayerful young people in tow, we begged God to resurrect our culture from death to life.

A procession is a corporal prayer--a physical acting out of what we desire to do with our hearts and lives. We physically walk with our Eucharistic Jesus, carried by His priest. We walk together, in the same direction. We go with him, stepping over obstacles and past baffled or antagonistic onlookers. We move our legs along a path that we don't choose for ourselves in a pedal prayer that our hearts will do likewise in the "procession" of our, and my, life.

The procession up the mountain at ASU in January 2010:

The prayer for life, from John Paul II, which we all recited aloud, as the rain fell:

Incensing the Blessed Sacrament under the canopy with the lights of Tempe, AZ in view from the mountain top:
The Solemn Blessing over the people by Our Eucharistic Jesus (still in the rain):
Isn't this a great photograph of young people kneeling before Our Lord on the mountain top?

Processing down the mountain:

The anti-feast of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is always a terrible occasion, but the entire week I found St. Paul's words consoling: "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more" (Rom 5:20). If Jan 22 represents in our country the practically unchecked abounding of bloodshed, human destruction, and sin, can we hope for an even greater release of God's grace?
We certainly can beg him for it--and that is exactly what we were privileged to do as we marched up the mountain at ASU, which Christ Himself leading us, on a rainy Friday night in January.

Monday, February 8, 2010

fatherhood and art

This past weekend I had the very cool--and somewhat chance--opportunity to meet the executive producer of Grassroots Films, Joe Campo. I also met with him Cliff Azize, one of the two main "actors" in the amazing movie-documentary, "The Human Experience." The website is

Here's Cliff, Joe, and Fr Benedict, so you know who I'm talking about:

I'd like to request prayers for Joe who is struggling with some health issues. I met him in a hospital here in Arizona where I had celebrated the Sacrament of Anointing for him. In the small but growing world of Catholic films, Grassroots is a bright light.

A short reflection: what a blessing to meet Joe Campo, though at an unfortunate time health-wise. Joe struck me as something like a "lay" Fr Benedict Groeschel: a tough New Yorker, and a holy, loving man who radiates genuine Fatherhood. A power reminder to me of how real holiness is, and must be, if it comes from an incarnate God.

At one point I asked Joe how many sons he has, and he said very matter-of-factly, "Two biological sons, and nine spiritual sons." And he meant it, not a drop of sentimentality. The way he said it made it unmistakable: these young men are his sons, he is their father. Someone else in the hospital room added, "And they'd have to come to be with Joe if he'd let them." (They're in New York, he's in Phoenix.) Fatherhood is an objective spritual reality, which may or may not have a biological origin.

For years he has been a father-figure at the St Francis House in Brooklyn, founded by Fr Benedict Groeschel in 1967, to be a safehaven for young men looking for a new start in life. What amazing the work.

The young men from the St Francis house in Brooklyn:

Another one with Fr Benefict and Joe Campo:

Again, please pray for a fast recovery for Joe Campo, a truly great Catholic man at a time when we're in desparate need of more like him.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

catholic chant

A great story from my sister in Steubenville, Ohio...

The girls basketball team at Quigley Catholic High School outside Pittsburgh had a big game against a public school rival.

At some point during the game, the opposing crowd starting chanting, "Go back to youth group!" The Quigley students, in response, began a chant of their own: "We love Jesus! We love Jesus!"

How cool is that? A story that makes you even more proud to be Catholic. There's nothing like a Catholic who loves Jesus! Thanks for the great example, Quigley.

religious life visit

This past Monday I spent the day at Xavier College Prep with Sr Martin Therese, O.P., a young Dominican Sister from Ann Arbor. I listened to her speak to high school girls all day about religious vocations and about her own religious vocation to the Dominicans.

Three things stand out from the experience:

1. Religious life fascinates high school with an almost mystical power. Even if they don't understand it or its deepest motivations, young people are attracted to it--the vows, the habit, the way of life, the cultural rebellion, the unashamed love for God. It's all so wierd (definitely) and beautiful (hopefully) to them. Most students couldn't take their eyes of this young Dominican sister. I had to practically drag her away from the students when we had to leave for another class.

2. God is still calling young women to religious life. The Ann Arbor sisters have grown from 4 to over 90 young women in only a few years--all entering between the ages of 18 and 30. Many young women at Xavier confide to me that they are attracted to various religious orders.

3. A religious vocation is an objective reality. It is not a subjective career choice. St Martin Therese--for example--at one point in discernment dragged her boyfriend(s) to the convent to convince the superiors (and herself) that she wasn't called to religious life. Didn't work. Soon she surrendered, and she is living proof of the unique happiness that comes from discovering and doing God's holy will.