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The Great Combat

The Great Combat

First Sunday of Lent

Presence of God – O Jesus, I withdraw in spirit with You into the desert; teach me how to fight the triple concupiscence of the flesh, pride, and avarice.


On this day, which is the real beginning of Lent, the Church invites us to the great combat, the struggle against sin which will bring us to the Easter resurrection. Our model is Jesus, who although exempt from the incitements of concupiscence, willed to be tempted by the devil for us, in order to have “compassion on our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).

After forty days of rigorous fast, while He is feeling the pangs of hunger, Jesus is tempted by Satan to change stones into bread. No one can undertake a serious program of penance or mortification without feeling its discomforts; but that is the time to resist the insinuating voices which invite us to condescend to the demands of nature; that is the time to reply with Jesus, “not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” (see Matthew 4:1-11). Man’s life is far more dependent on the will of God than on material food. If we are convinced of this truth, we shall have the TheTemptationOfChristArySchefferDevilSatanEvil - for "The Great Combat" postcourage to submit to privations, trusting in divine Providence for our sustenance.

Jesus was next tempted to pride. “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down … and in their hands, the angels shall bear thee up.” Such a miracle would have aroused the admiration and enthusiasm of the people, but Jesus knew that His Father had chosen an entirely different way for Him—the way of humiliations rather than of triumphs, the way of the Cross and of death. Because He had no desire to escape from this way, He resolutely rejected the suggestion to pride. The best means of conquering temptations to pride and vanity is to choose exactly what humiliates us and makes us appear little in the eyes of others.

The devil returns to the attack and tempts Jesus to avarice: “All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.” But Jesus replies, “The Lord thy God shalt thou adore and Him only shalt thou serve!” He whose heart is firmly anchored in God will never let it be drawn away from His service by an attraction for, or envy of, earthly things. But if this strong adherence to God is weakened or lost, the temptations to avarice will often succeed in making even those stray who have a special vocation to be “serving God alone.”


“Lord God, our Father, Life by which all live, without which everything would be as dead, do not abandon me to evil thoughts and to pride; take away from me all concupiscence and do not give me as prey to an irreverent and foolish spirit; but take possession of my heart, that I may always think of You…. Help me now, my Redeemer, I beseech You, so that I will not fall before my enemies, caught in the snares which they set for my feet to abase my soul; but save me, strength of my salvation, that I may not become a laughing-stock to Your enemies who hate You. Rise, O Lord, my God, my strength, and Your enemies will be dispersed; those who hate You will flee before Your face.

“As wax melts in the fire, so do sinners vanish before Your face. I shall hide myself in You, and rejoice with Your children, satiated with all Your good things. And You, O Lord God, Father of orphans, protecting Mother, spread your wings, that under them we may take refuge from our enemies” (St. Augustine).*

I entrust myself to You, my God and Savior! I wish, particularly in times of struggle, to take refuge in You with redoubled confidence, for “You are my defense and will deliver me from the nets of the fowler and from all misfortune. You will cover me with Your wings and I shall be safe. Your fidelity will surround me like a shield, and I shall fear neither the terrors of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the plague that roams in darkness, nor the attacks of the noonday devil. You are my hope, Lord; You are my refuge, O Most High! You have commanded Your angels to watch over all my paths, and they will bear me in their hands lest my feet strike against a stone” (cf Psalm 91: 3-12).


Note from Dan: This post on “The Great Combat” is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art: The Temptation of Christ, Ary Scheffer, 1854, PD-US published before January 1, 1923, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.


* Saint Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 68.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • marybernadette

    I was wondering how Jesus was tempted as He would not have concupicience, thank you and, of course, for another great teaching

    • LizEst

      Good question. We know from Scripture that Christ was both God and man (and still is, for that matter). Jesus was a man (human) like us in all things but sin.

      To understand temptation, it is important to come at it from the vantage point of the tempter. A temptation is not based on concupiscence, or whether or not one can give in to that temptation. It is simply a temptation. And, the devil tries to tempt us in whatever way he thinks it will work. Obviously, he thought he would give it a try with Jesus. Obviously, he was wrong. And, he can be wrong about how He tempts us, too, for that matter!

      As we read from Dan’s book “Navigating the Interior Life”, concupiscence is the “Insubordination of man’s desires to the dictates of reason, and the propensity of human nature to sin as a result of original sin.” Because Christ was not subject to original sin, He was fully in control of His reason. His will, His reason, His desires were all in perfect harmony. Thus, while bread might have appealed to Him because He was hungry after fasting for 40 days and nights (talk about a Scriptural understatement!), He was not going to eat just to prove to the devil that He was the Son of God. Neither was Jesus going to fall down and worship Satan, or throw Himself off the parapet of the Temple. The difference with us is that, because of original sin, our minds, hearts, will, reason and desires are not in perfect harmony, neither are they in perfect harmony with the will of God. So, we are more likely to fall to the schemes of the tempter. But, we don’t have to! Lent is one of the ways the Church helps us in this regard…if we take it to heart.

      Hope this helps…Blessed first Sunday of Lent to you, marybernadette!

      • marybernadette

        Thank you Liz. It made me think of when Adam and Eve were ‘tempted’ that they would not have had concupiscence either, until they gave into it and ‘gravely sinned.’

        • LizEst

          Exactly right. You’re welcome! To God be all the glory!

          • marybernadette


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