The devil wants to take the things of God, the holy things, the things we love and he wants to twist them to his own desires. Satan wants to do is to take something that is good and true and twist it. The devil can’t do anything of himself. He can’t create anything of his own accord. He can only take what God has created and try to twist it to his own ends. We need to recognize satan’s plans for what they are.
Consider the temptation of Jesus in the desert. It mirrors the problems that we face right from the moment of our conversion. Jesus is tempted in the desert, a place that is the antithesis of the Garden of Eden. The opposite. The garden was a place which God prepared for man. Everything was there. Adam and Eve had everything they needed. They wanted for nothing. They had no hunger. They had no need of anything else in the world. They themselves were the king and queen of their castle. The Lord gave dominion of all things in the world to them. They had it all.
Contrast that with Jesus in the desert. Jesus goes into the desert, into the place where there is nothing. He goes into the place where there is no food. There is no water. There is the very privatization of all of those things. He goes into the very heart of human need. His experience is ultimately the punishment that was due to sin—the lacking of all the blessings that God wanted to give us. There, in the desert, he took on satan, not in the midst of having everything, but rather in the deprivation.
So often that is how the devil comes to us. The devil comes to us when we are weak. This beautiful line of the Gospel, “He had nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry,” makes us realize that God was hungry. God felt the needs that we feel. It always gives me such great help to know that our Lord was hungry. Why? Because it means that God knows what we are going through. He knows our sufferings. He experienced them.
The way the devil tempted Adam and Eve is the same way that he tempted Jesus. What was it that drew Eve to the tree? It was the apple, wasn’t it? “Oh, it looks good. Look at this apple.” The temptation to food, that temptation to a carnal desire, our basic desires for food, for rest, for sensuality--those basic desires, those things that we have in common even with the irrational animals of the world--those very basic desires are where the devil first will tempt us. Getting us to sin in a carnal desire offers a toehold to satan. Satan goes after those carnal desires first. Why? Because it can get his foot in the door.
Once he gets your attention, what’s next? He tempts with pride. Satan tells Adam and Eve, “You can become like God. You can decide what’s right and wrong.” Isn’t that what he did when he tempted Jesus in the desert? Make the stones bread. That was a carnal desire. Then he showed Jesus all the cities of the world. “I give them to you. You can be the master of the things in the world,” satan said to Christ. After a test of hunger, after a temptation to our great carnal desires, satan tempts with pride.
Lastly he throws at us our faith itself. Wasn’t that the temptation that Adam and Eve faced? They were tempted to believe satan instead of God who told them not to eat of the fruit of that tree or they would die. Satan told them God was mistaken. “You won’t die.” They believed the lie because their faith in God had wavered. The devil told Jesus, “Worship me. Make me your God.” He was tempting Jesus to give up faith in the Father and put his faith in satan.
Jesus said that there are some demons they can’t be cast out except by prayer and fasting. Fasting must be part of our lives, because if we don’t conquer our very basic carnal desires, then we will never be able to resist the temptations of satan. Jesus showed us that fasting is the way to do battle with our carnal nature. Those carnal desires for food, rest, and sensuality are where the devil gets himself in the door. We need to shut the door strongly.
This is why we need to fast more. We need to make a place for fasting in our lives. Although penitents in the Confraternity of Penitents fast frequently because it is part of their Rule of Life, the Catholic Church mandates only two days where we have to fast--Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If that is all you are fasting, I challenge you to fast more this Lent. Maybe even once a week.
Pick a fast day. I’m not talking about starving yourself. One big meal, two smaller meals that, together, don’t equal the big one. No starving. But we do need to fast.
We need to feel that hunger. We need to feel the hunger that Jesus felt in the desert because we need to rely more on God. Until we feel that hunger and we say, “I choose the love of God, over my own base desires,” until we choose the love of God over our own wants and needs, we are never going to be able to expel the devil and his temptations from our lives.
We need fasting because we all have demons in our lives that can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. We will never be able to resist the temptations to pride and to lack of faith if we don’t first control our appetites. The saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” isn’t just for men. The way to damage your heart is, indeed, through your stomach, through your carnal desires. The way to have Christ reign over you is to first control the carnal desires.
I invite you to one day of fasting per week during Lent. One day a week and watch the graces flow into your life.
--Father Jacob Meyer, CFP Visitor