You Shall Not Turn Stones into Government Cheese
He adds that this last petition is not for his sake -- since he no longer has that particular weakness -- but "for the ones whom we have left behind." He has this, er, friend who, you know, kind of has problems in that area.
The latter souls trudge around in circles with weights on their backs, hoping to purge themselves of the world's impurities -- or, the terrestrial impurities they have assimilated and internalized.
"Lead us not into temptation" has obvious resonance with Jesus' forty days in the desert, just after his baptism. If baptism is the "purification," then temptation is the test of purity.
And as we have discussed before, the adversary never forces the issue; he does not operate through coercion, like some mid-level government functionary, but through temptation.
Temptation is the test of purity, and purity is the victory over temptation. The purifying "fire" that occurs in the space between these two poles is our phoenishing school, so long as you make ashes of yourselves.
Temptation is etymologically related to stretch, so that it implies a kind of centrifugal pulling of ourselves outward, from the center to the periphery, from cooncentration ("coon central") to dissipation. The world itself is a giant test, an opportunity to challenge our ability to resist its seductions.
According to Pope Benedict, Jesus' time in the desert is not for his sake per se, but for ours, both as archetype and as mission.
Jesus has to plunge down "into the drama of human existence, for that belongs to the core of his mission; he has to penetrate it completely, down to its uttermost depths.... He must recapitulate the whole history from its beginnings -- from Adam on; he must go through the whole of it, in order to transform it."
To put it another way, Jesus must retake the test that Adam FAILED, and this time obtain a passing grade. Please note that this is not so much a recapitulation of horizontal history as of the vertical history that is lived -- or relived -- by every man.
You might say that Jesus needs to come down and find out the exact nature of the problem by actually experiencing -- and undergoing -- it.
We are all dropped into history, just like Jesus. Indeed, if we weren't so dropped, then Jesus' own plunge into history 1O1 would have no meaning for us. For Man is the best judge of where his shoe pinches, and Jesus aims to walk a mile in our crockosins.
But Jesus skips the multitude of middlemen -- the multifarious manifestations of maya -- and goes straight to the source, for that is just the way He rolls. This way he can reduce the whole existentialida to a more digestible three-entree combo plate, confront the "quintessential human drama," and get on with it.
Benedict reminds us that the synoptics recount "three temptations of Jesus that reflect the inner struggle over his own particular mission," but simultaneously go to the question of "what truly matters in life."
Appropriately, the temptations all ultimately flow from the violation of the first Commandment, in which God is pushed aside "as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying."
With this primordial "act," man inverts the cosmos and places himself at the top, thus replacing the Abbasolute with a middling relativity. Doing so redounds to countless errors of every kind, e.g., cognitive, spiritual, philosophical, political, scientific, moral, etc.
This cosmic inversion cannot fail to result in epic falls, for no house can be built upon sand. In replacing God with man, we necessarily replace truth with opinion, virtue with convention, beauty with pleasure, and wisdom with tenure.
Now, "forty days" has a number of resonances, perhaps most especially the forty days Moses spent on Sinai and the forty years the ancient Israelights stumbled around in the bewilderness.
According to Ratzinger, this cosmic number is another symbolic hint that we are dealing with a totality -- with man's entire cosmic exodus and return, i.e, History as such.
Or, one might say that History has become derailed, and Jesus' mission is to get it back on track -- or at least show us where man has buried his tracks.
The three temptations of course have an exterior and interior meaning. They involve, 1) turning stones to bread, 2) taking a flying leap, and 3) the promise of worldly power and prestige.
Do we need to repeat the verticalisthenic exergesis? These three have so many dimensions and implications, that it would be difficult to explore them all in the space of a post. Besides, I believe we have discussed these in the past, in the context of our card-by-card series of posts on MOTT.
One popular way to try to turn stones to bread is through the apparatus of the welfare state. In its case, it attempts to transform money obtained through coercion into compassion. But the state has only enumerated powers, not innumerable feelings.
In the case of, say, the Palestinians, it tries to turn money into civilization and common decency, and we see how that has worked out. It is the same with Africa. It may temporarily relieve the guilt -- and inflate the self-image -- of liberals, but that's about it. The liberal temptation is always to turn stones to bread in one form or another.
But this temptation is rooted in the prior rejection of God (temptation one) and the subsequent consolidation of power (temptation three). So it's all of a piece for the liberal statist, who stands as a vivid example of how to fail Adam's test. And why God wanted a Word with Mary, since Eve wouldn't listen.
Liberals even tendentiously interpret the First Amendment to say that it is illegal for the state to traffic in bread, or to even acknowledge its existence. Rather, it insists upon a radical separation of stones and bread.
Which perhaps might not be so destructive if it didn't then pretend that stones are bread. The liberal fuses magical faith and raw power with an irony so thick that his mind cannot penetrate it.
For the leftist, taxes are his eucharist and entitlements his benediction. His appeal to "progress" is likewise an empty gesture in a world deprived of hierarchy. For how does the materialist measure progress except in the form of more and bigger stones?
Which generations to come will carry on their backs, trundling around in fiscal circles.
Obama's temptation in the desert: "if you are truly the One, then transform this stolen pork into prosperity!" (via American Digest):