The gateway of temptation

Daily Reading for February 21 • The First Sunday in Lent

Our journey begins in an apparently unpromising way—with temptations. We do not usually think of temptations as a place to find help. But there are some temptations that stand at the entrance. There are some temptations that even to recognize as temptations and to feel the conflict of being pulled in two directions is to have found the gateway to a new path. In the very conflict, we find our world more wonderful and more dangerous than we ever before realized.

Jesus showed us the gateway we are to enter, if we are to begin to be religious, when he himself encountered three temptations just before he began to teach people about God. In facing these temptations, he pioneered a path for us to follow to reach fullness of life. . . .

Temptation means being asked to renounce something that is good or at least needed. In the first temptation we are asked to renounce the goods of this world; in the second, we are asked to renounce security. We see in this how deceptive evil is, for we are not tempted into evil by things that are evil, but by things that are good or needful. The opening into the spiritual realm is blocked not by evil things, but by good ones. This is why a renunciation is required of us—to give up something of value, to give up pearls for the one pearl of great price. That is why the spiritual world, when genuinely encountered, is initially unattractive. In fact one of the tests for whether we have ever genuinely encountered very much of the divine reality is whether or not we have experienced this initial unattractiveness of its terms.

The third temptation has to do with a renunciation of ourselves. Again this is a renunciation of something that is of value; for we are indeed precious to God and all of us individually find ourselves to be of unconditional value to ourselves. But we are asked to renounce our will, which is our control over ourselves, and this means that it is we ourselves who stand as the final barrier at the very entrance to the spiritual world.

From Temptation by Diogenes Allen. A Seabury Classic from Church Publishing. Copyright © 2004. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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