While at times we are faced with decisions involving good and evil, most often our choices are between something good, something better, and perhaps a best option. When a choice is simply between a good and evil we know to avoid the evil. But things are a bit more tricky when we compromise the ideal and allow ourselves to settle for less than the best.
It is helpful to remember that Jesus was tempted with things that were not in themselves bad. Food is a good. Wanting to experience the presence and action of God is good. Power is a good. You can read the full account of the temptation of Jesus from today’s Gospel reading at this link.
The problem comes when we seek and use things that are good as an end in themselves.
Our problem comes when we think that the thing that we are choosing will deliver complete and lasting happiness. The fact is that nothing apart from God can satisfy the restlessness in the depth of our hearts.
We are endlessly unhappy when we live as if convinced that a lotto win, a business success or a newer model car or partner will bring us happiness. Too easily we become attached to these mirages and soon they have power over us. Those familiar with The Lord of the Rings will appreciate this danger reflected in the tragic character Gollum.
A temptation is a drive to grasp at something which may be good in itself, but is really just a sign that points us to a deeper answer.
Today I am leading a retreat day for the Holy Cross seminarians. One of the quotations I will invite them to consider is a favourite of mine from Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing:
“There is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire. Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality . . . Augustine says: ‘You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest.”
The restlessness / hunger / desire / longing that we feel is not a flaw in our humanity but placed in us by divine design to direct us to God who is the only satisfactory response to the question that is our human existence.
- Take a moment to read the Rolheiser quotation again, noting which words or phrases express your own feeling.
- Give a thought and a prayer for the seminarians at Holy Cross Seminary on their retreat day today.