The Temptation of Christ, a Reply to Objections (2)

“The Temptation of Christ”, Ary Scheffer

Jesus says:

“I tell you truly that when a creature has reached heroic virtue, or, as St. Paul says, the creature ‘has become strong in the Lord and in his powerful virtue,’ it is then that one must put on the armor of God to be able to withstand the devil’s traps,’ for it is then that, as the Apostle always says, the creature ‘no longer fights with flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers, against the dominators of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits in the air-that is, against mighty Hell, which directly unleashes the great tempests of powerful temptations in a last effort to try to demolish the giant spirit resisting it.

“Is temptation, then, a sin or a glory? A good or an evil? It is not sin. And through an element of Evil, it can be turned into a means for good and glory through the goodwill with which man rejects it. The freewill decision to yield or not to yield to temptation is not forced upon any man-it was not forced even upon the Christ. A temptation rejected is a merit acquired. For this reason God has left man his splendid freedom to will, so that, through it, and by his own merit, man could arrive at a merited glory.

“Always remember this. And always remember, too, that man’s life is an expiation of the evil man does; at best-that is, in the case of someone who does not commit even a single conscious sin-it is always expiation, or if you prefer, suffering resulting from Original Sin-though my Sacrifice and your being restored to Grace which I obtained for you by that Sacrifice, have superabundantly reduced it-and every man is thus obliged to suffer to arrive again at that degree of justice, freely given, which the First Parents possessed together with life. Oh, holy, immaculate innocence of the first Creatures, which the present ones must reconstruct with their pain, along with the free gifts which I obtained for you by my Sacrifice!

“Accordingly when you see the Holiest One of all or a saint powerfully tempted, do not say, ‘This is inappropriate.’ But observe the way those tempted react. And if you see that they remain indifferent to the temptation-a fact which testifies that they have reached the perfection I counseled for you: ‘as your Heavenly Father is perfect,’ a perfection which no agent can disturb-if you see they remain indifferent to temptation, having won the battle in themselves against all the reactions of flesh and blood, or if you see the just able to fight at the same time against the disorder provoked from outside, which would like to rise up again, and against the Beast, provoking and hurling forth calls to disorder, do not say that ‘this is inappropriate,’ but say that it serves to make the degree of perfection reached by those tempted shine out or to illuminate it.

“Who can undergo temptation? God? The angels? Men? God, as God, cannot undergo any temptation. The angels, who remained faithful even during the rebellion of Lucifer and his followers, cannot undergo temptation, as they were raised up, after the trial, to the supernatural order, to the contemplation and praise of God. It is only man, then, who can be tempted, man composed of a material substance and a spiritual substance, endowed with rational freedom, intelligence, and conscience, so as to be able to discern good and evil and will good or evil. It is only man, while still fighting his battle, that can be subject to temptation, through the sad inheritance which has come to him from the first ancestor of Humanity.

“Since the day of Adam’s fall from the state of innocence to that of sin, since the day the woman wanted firsthand knowledge of the forbidden plant and the Serpent was able to speak to Eve, who listened to him intently instead of fleeing from him and accepted his deceitful words and ruinous suggestions, man has perennially found himself close to the plant of Good and Evil that Lucifer is wrapped around and has undergone temptation. But it is through his victory over the promptings towards sin that he acquires justice and conquers his immortal crown or, if he repeats Eve’s gesture and picks the forbidden fruit, obeying the Charmer, gets poisoned, sometimes to the point of dying therefrom. It is precisely through the victory over external temptations and mastery over the senses and pride and thus over internal stimuli that you men become ‘gods and sons of the Most High,’ like your Most Holy Brother Jesus, who underwent temptations, but never sinned because He did not want to sin. One can be tempted without one’s consent thereto. One becomes a sinner only by one’s consent.

I, Jesus, never consented to sin. On the contrary, having combatted every human reaction which was not acceptable to God, through a spirit of voluntary, loving justice, and having done so since my earliest years, ‘remaining subject to my (putative) father and my mother, two just people who taught Me justice, and growing in wisdom, age, and grace,’ I eliminated in Myself forever every possibility of sudden disorder or inner disturbance from pressures and circumstances, which, when I grew older arose around Me, intensifying until my death.

“Do not misunderstand Me! I say ‘pressures and circumstances’; I do not say ‘lust.’ The pressures and circumstances of uncomprehending relatives, of citizens even more obtuse than my relatives, of hostile fellow countrymen, of treacherous enemies, and of betraying friends. It is not only sensuality that serves to prompt sin. There are so many reasons for which man may sin. And what do you say? Do you say, for instance, that Judas’ conduct would not have been a motive for a sin against love in anyone else? Do you say, for example, that the animosity of the scribes and pharisees and all my adversaries, so sly in opposing Me and also so base in their means and the accusations they used to oppose Me, was not a perpetual temptation to react in a human way?

“I did not sin. I said,’And who among you can convict Me of sin?’ I said so to my enemies at that time. I can say so to my enemies at present, and also to the incredulous and those doubting my sanctity. But even if I do not say so to you, whom I want to regard as friends, even though you cause Me pain through the pain you cause my little John, my works tell you so.

“Is there perhaps a word or act written in the Work I dictated and elucidated which can convince you of sin, of a single sin, by your Master? I am that work. It is not only I who dictate and elucidate it, but it is I who live it out, I who present Myself to you as I was in my mortal days, in the environment surrounding Me, in the little holy world of my family, in that vaster and different world, in keeping with the beings comprising it, of my disciples in the vaster, inconstant one-all Palestine-whipped up and traversed by varying currents, like a sea moving around Me, under a changeable March sky, sometimes entirely calm and serene, and immediately afterwards covered with storm clouds and traversed by gale winds stirring up the sea into breakers roaring their acrimony against Me, threatening and also attacking, under the final violence of Good Friday.

“Why don’t you want to recognize Me? Why don’t you understand my language? Why do you want to be like those attacking Me in the Temple, saying, ‘We don’t know who You are? Are you, too, like the apostles who at the Last Supper showed they still did not know Me for what I was: the Word, Son of the Father who was returning to the Father after having long been among men to give them the words which the Father gave Him? But they, my poor Apostles, had not yet received the Holy Spirit, He who illuminates all truth. But you have received Him. Does not even his Light illuminate for you the Christ who is in these pages? The eternal, most wise Word, who is carrying out a new work of love and salvation because He has mercy on the excessively large number who are dying of spiritual starvation, who are being lost because they do not know Me, who are freezing because they are not assisted with the fires of apostolic love, who are going off track because they are blind and there is no one to reach out and lead them to Me, whom they are seeking, getting lost on other roads you condemn, but do not pull them away from, poor children whom you condemn because they travel those roads as blind people seeking the Light and whom I will not condemn because I see the movements of their hearts, and I will draw them to Me because I am the Savior of the Jews and the Gentiles, of all who seek the Truth.

“I ask you again, Why do you make Me dictate these words? Are these the ones I would like to say to you? Do not bring Me pain. The pain I am cause by those I want to regard as my friends is the pain which is most painful to Me….

“I, Jesus, never consented to sin. I never felt disturbance because of sin. The only disturbance-remember this-I could be occasioned by the stench of evil stirring around Me was nausea, disgust over sin. I preferred to draw near lepers dying of this disease rather than healthy people covered with the scabs of vice and stinking of lust, especially if they were impenitent. My infinite love for sinners, who were to be saved, always made Me overcome the nausea caused by their spiritual stench. My Father, my Father alone, knows what sort of prolonged passion it was for Me to have to live enveloped in the whirlpool of temptations and the muddy wave of the sins streaming over the earth, doubling over and knocking down men. To have to live and see the bling over and knocking down men. To have to live and see the shipwreck of so many, without being able to imprison the Beast, shipwreck of so many, because the time to do so had not yet come. It still has not. And it heads on, with its hellish breath fuming out, sowing its poison, and is followed by the ever-growing wave of ever-increasing sins. Now, too, I feel nausea and pain over this.

“Who was I? I was the Incarnate Word. I was God, then. And I was Man, then. I was truly God and I was truly Man. I was the Redeemer, the new Adam, ‘the First-Born from among the dead,’ as my John says, also writing in his Apocalypse, ‘Jesus Christ, who loved us and cleansed us of our sins in his Blood,’ and in his Epistle, ‘There are three that bear witness in Heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these Three are One alone; and there are three that bear witness on earth: the spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one alone.’

“Three in Heaven who witness to the Divine Nature of Jesus, who is Christ, from birth until death and beyond Death and Resurrection, forever and ever, with no interruption at all, as some heretics have wanted to maintain.

The Father, who three times during my public life indicated Me as his beloved Son and his good pleasure and glory. And on Tabor the Eternal Father’s voice was heard by just three persons, who, because of their condition as disciples, can be silenced by the deniers as exalters or deceivers, at the Jordan and especially in Jerusalem, jam-packed for the approaching Feast of Unleavened Bread, many people-to the point that they were indeed termed ‘multitudes,’ where Israelites were mixed with Gentiles, Jews with proselytes, and disciplles with enemies of Christ-heard the testimony by my Father.

“Three times, in three times and three different places and circumstances, the Father bore witness to Me without ever retracting. Now, only true versions remain immutable, whereas those which are not true, with the passing of time, undergo alterations which disclose their deceitful source. If, then, on three occasions, in three different times, places, and circumstances, a Voice, always with the same power, and quite different from mine and from that of every ether man, thundered from the Heavens to bear the same witness to Me, it is a sign that I was really God, like the Father, since God the Father can be said to glory in only one Son, God, like Him, having begotten Him, and to take pleasure in Him, seeing He is perfect as He, the Father is by Divine Nature, and perfect in terms of will and grace in the human nature taken on.

The Word, with his most wise Doctrine and his works, of such a nature and power that they testify by themselves that it is He -a God- who teaches the former and carries out the latter.

The Holy Spirit, manifesting Himself in the form of a Dove at the Jordan and as Fire in the Upper Room at Pentecost to finish the work of Christ, purifying and perfecting the Apostles for their ministry, just as I had promised them, and, for those able to see, being present and transparent in every word of infinite, charitable wisdom issuing forth from the lips of the Master, Jesus-Christ. The Holy Spirit never comes to the aid of liars. He abandons them to the Father of Deceit and flees far from them. But He was always with Me because I am Jesus Christ, God and Man, just as I said I was.

“And there are three things bearing witness on the earth to my true Humanity: the spirit I gave back, like all men, after a painful agony, my Blood, shed in the Passion, and the water which issued from my lifeless side together with the final drops of cadaveric blood gathered into the cavity of my dead Heart. Now, you know that only a real body yields blood if wounded and that only a real corpse presents a separation of the watery part of the blood-which you term ‘serum’-from the other, which coagulates into clots or at least is already thicker and darker than living blood, if the time elapsed between death and the discharge of blood is still too short. But I-as my Turin Shroud attest-discharged blood that was already clotted because I had already growing cold and stiff, very quickly, on account of the specific conditions which had brought about my rapid death.

“By then the testimony of John the Apostle, then, a witness to my death. I am a true Man.

“Paul of Tarsus wrote to those who could have rebutted him if he had exaggerated or lied in describing Me. “That Jesus, made only slightly inferior to the angels, because of the death He endured, is crowned with glory and honor, having tasted death by the grace of God for the sake of all. And it certainly was very fitting for Him through whom and from whom all things exist… to make the author of their salvation perfect by way of suffering… He, too, shared flesh and blood with men to destroy, by dying, the one who held away over death… Indeed, He did not take on angelic nature, but the seed of Adam. He thus had to be, in all things, like his brothers and sisters to become the merciful, faithful high priest before God and to atone for the sins of his people, so that, in having suffered and in being tried Himself He could help those who are enduring trials… We do not have a high priest who cannot be compassionate towards our infirmities, since He was tempted in every way, like us, but without sin… Every high priest… is constituted… so that he will offer gifts and sacrifices for sins and have mercy on the ignorant and misguided, since he himself is surrounded by infirmity…. It was certainly appropriate for us to have such a high priest-holy, innocent, immaculate, separated from sinners, exalted above the Heavens.

“Saul, then, a learned man and a contemporary of the Jews of my time, when he became Paul, full of wisdom and truth, with the reality of my historical figure and the lights of the Holy Spirit, also testifies that I am true God and true Man, equal to my Father, by divine, uncreated Nature, equal to my Mother, by human, created Nature, Christ uninterruptedly and eternally, the Perfect One Making Reparation, Savior, and Redeemer.

“And if, then, I was Man, why should I not have suffered temptation, as every other man suffers? If my Father wanted to make Me ‘like’ you ‘in all things,’ why should He have granted Me the unjust privilege of not experiencing the suffering and exertion of temptations, which all men undergo and to which they react in different ways, according to the prevalence or absence in them of the good will to sanctify themselves-that is, of their spirituality or their carnality? But it is precisely because I perfected Myself by way of continual suffering that I was a Perfect Host! If the Father had not wanted the Devil to approach the Man who was his Incarnate Word, couldn’t He have prevented him? Didn’t He do so in keeping Me hidden from Satan’s searching for thirty years through a whole set of providential circumstances? And, if He had wanted to, couldn’t He have placed set limits on the temptations to which I was subjected, if He had wanted to permit some of them, but not all, not that one, as inappropriate for Christ? And couldn’t He have Me superior to men and angels? Why, then, did He make Me slightly inferior to angels and similar to men? Am I not similar to you, then? And isn’t there a contradiction in these words of the Apostle, who says I am a Man like other men in all respects and nonetheless also says I am slightly inferior to the angels? Am I not similar to you, then? Am I not similar to God, then, since God is more than the angels? Did the Apostle thus articulate blasphemies, foolishness, and lies? And if he did not, where do we find this difference, this equality, and this inferiority in being different from the angels, inferior to them, and equal to men and at the same time unequal, since I am slightly inferior to the angels? But is it not blasphemy to say that the Incarnate Word is inferior to the angels? What does this difference in Me from the angels and men consist of?

“Have you never asked yourselves these questions, with a sincere desire to respond and bringing your intellect to work in the light of God? For, my children, all of you are duty-bound to ask them in the divine light and to strive to understand, to strive on your own to understand-not to make do indolently with the explanations provided by others, so as not to make an effort to understand. If you were to read all the books which speak of Me and of the Most High Lord, they would not be such use to you, if you read them mechanically, as one single notion attained by your own effort to understand, with loving humility turning to the Holy Spirit so as to be able understand, with heroic justice to have the Holy Spirit as a friend and be led by Him to comprehend the divine language. For only ‘those who are led by the Holy Spirit are the children of God.’ It is Paul, once again, who says so. And it is natural for children to understand the language of their father.

“But I will tell you the difference and how it is possible for Me to be like you and at the same time slightly inferior to the angels.

“I am like you. I am Man and thus, beyond doubt, inferior to the angels, for man is not a spiritual creature, the noblest one in creation, as are the angels-purely spiritual, markedly intelligent, and possessing a very quick intelligence because they are not weighed down by flesh and the senses and are confirmed in grace, always worshipping the Lord, whose thought they understand and implement with no obstacle. But can man elevate himself to a supernatural degree? He can by living voluntarily in purity, obedience, humility, and charity, exactly as the angels do. And this is what I did. That Jesus, made slightly inferior to the angels, was Man through the desire of his Divine Father so that He could be the Redeemer. Moreover, He became slightly inferior to the angels through his own will to give you the example of how man, if he so wills, can elevate himself to angelic perfection and lead an angelic life.

“Oh, human life fused so intensely to the supernatural as to cancel out matter in its clamor and weakness in order to take on angelic resonances and perfections! A life oblivious to concupiscence, living by love and in love! Man becoming an angel-that is, creatures composed of two substances who purify the lowest part of the fires of Charity, and all the virtues are in Charity, like numerous seeds enclosed in a single fruit, to the point that they may be said to strip themselves, or, rather, it strips them of all that is materiality until making even matter worthy to penetrate into the Kingdom of the Spirit one day. They place their purified clothing in the tomb while awaiting the final command. But it will then rise glorified, to the point of becoming the admiration even of the angels, for the beauty of the risen and glorified bodies will cause even the angels of God reverent astonishment and they will wonder at these created brothers and sisters of theirs, saying, ‘We were able to remain in grace by way of one substance alone; they, men, are victors in trial with both their spirit and their flesh. Glory be to God for the twofold victory of the chosen ones.

“Christ, similar to men in all respects, wanted to reach the beauty of angelic perfection by a life without a trace, not of sin, but of even the attraction to sin, and, while remaining Man to undergo death with his flesh and blood so as to expiate the sins of flesh, blood, the mind, and the pride of life, with absolutely all pain to make reparation for absolutely all Sin, became slightly inferior to the angels, raising human nature up to angelic perfection.

“I am God, then. And I am Man. And as the angel is the immediate link between man and God, I, who was to reweld the broken chain, reunite you to God, made my perfect Humanity into a joining of earth-men-and Heaven-angels-bringing Humanity back to a perfection equal to-indeed, greater than-that which Adam and Eve possessed at the beginning of days, when Man was innocent and happy through a free gift of God, without knowing of or experiencing the hard struggle against Evil and the causes of sin/ The Divnity did not degrade Itself, then, in taking on Adam’s seed, but Humanity was divinized, brought back, by Man’s free will, to the perfection making men like my Father, who knows no injustice.

“The Apostle does not lie, blaspheme, or contradict himself when saying, by inspired words, that Jesus, the Man, became slightly less than the angles in heroic spirituality, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were not at fault in giving the Redeemer the only covering suitable for Him so that He would be such and redeem you through the ongoing lesson of his growing in grace to the point of reaching spiritual perfection, in addition to the major action of his sacrifice, to redeem you from your ignorance, from that ignorance resulting from sin, degrading man’s strength, conditioning him with the assumption that, since he is made more of matter than spirit, he cannot attempt his evolution in the spirit.

“No, matter strikes you as great and overbearing because you see it and hear it shouting out its bestial sounds. It strikes you as so great because you fear it and do not want to make it to suffer out of fear of suffering. It strikes you as so great because Satan alters its outlines before you. It strikes you as so great because you do not know. You are, moreover, ignorant of what that magnificent thing which is the soul really is, of what that most powerful thing which is the soul united to God is.

“Leave your fears aside. Leave your ignorance aside. Look at Me. I, Man, reached the Perfection of justice as a man like you because I wanted to. Imitate Me. Do not fear. Keep your souls united to God and advance. And rise. Rise into the luminous regions of the supernatural. Drag along your flesh with your burning will to the place to which your spirit is rising. Become angels. Become seraphim. The devil will no longer be able to wound you in your  depths. His darts will fall at your feet after having struck your armor and you will not be disturbed, as I was not.

“It was just, then, for my Father not to grant Me a nature different from man’s, though He could have done so. Just. No one can say to Me, accordingly, when I propose my code and say to you, ‘Follow it if you want to be where I am,’ ‘You can be there because You are different from me, in whom the flesh fiercely battles. You are victorious over Satan because in You the flesh is not allied with Satan.’ No one can reproach Me for an easy victory or get discouraged about being created differently. In Me and in you are the same things: flesh, intellect, and spirit, to be able to live, comprehend, and overcome. I am of the seed of Adam. You are the seed of Adam.

The Notebooks 1945-1950, pages 353-364

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