1st June 2021
Feast of St Justin Martyr
The appetite for pleasure, money, and power: these are the fundamental appetites of human nature. Any and every temptation can only appeal to one or more of these three appetites.
These appetites can be man’s downfall, or else the path by which he overcomes and merits victory in Christ.
For to master these appetites is to be the master of oneself, to be self-possessed, and to be in a much greater capacity to surrender oneself to the will of God. But to be mastered by one’s appetites, by one or more of the appetites, is to become a slave to them, a slave to sin, and to be estranged from the grace and glory of God.
Saint John the Beloved warned against these appetites: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away, along with its desires; but whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2: 15-17)
If one is mastered by one’s appetites (desires), this becomes like a spiritual wound which festers and grows, perhaps becomes a sort of spiritual abscess, against which the soul will struggle as it seeks sound health, until it is set free by the grace of God.
“The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) The same can be said of an immoderate love of pleasure or power.
How many souls have fallen because they could not liberate themselves from an attachment to the love of money, power or pleasure?
Whether one is a Christian or not, religious or not, priest or nun, brother or sister, mother or father, son or daughter, one can only advance toward union with God by mastering one’s appetites, by doing the will of God, through the gift of God’s grace with which He empowers us to overcome sin, temptation, and to master ourselves, for the glory of God.
He who does not master himself cannot submit his will to God, and he who does not submit to the will of God cannot master himself. These two go hand in hand.
For “The world is passing away, along with its desires; but whoever does the will of God remains forever.”
Notice too that the devil’s three temptations of Christ in the wilderness correspond to the three appetites (Matthew 4:1-11): for pleasure, power, and riches.
Isn’t it interesting that history seems to have given us clear examples of all three appetites leading to the downfall or temporary downfall of someone or other?
One mystic wrote that Judas betrayed our Lord because Judas was, from the very beginning, only interested in success and attached to the love of money—he controlled the common “purse” (collective money) for the apostles and he ultimately betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver.
Saint Paul (before his conversion) was attached to power: he wanted to round up all Christians and put them away or put them to death.
Pope Alexander VI fell from grace because of his attachment to pleasure, power, and money: he had several mistresses and fathered several children, while securing his power through alliances with various political powers.
No one is immune from such trials, and we ought to be sober, watchful and vigilant, as the Lord encouraged us to be. (Luke 21:36)