Overcoming the Five P’s

Jesus came to save us by entering into the fullness of the condition of fallen humanity and offering all to the Father. He was like us “in all things but sin” (Hebrews 4:15); he was also subject to temptation, but never succumbed in any way. These temptations in the desert were not the only time, nor the last time, that Jesus endured temptations (at the end of this scene, it is revealed that the devil “departed from him for a time”). But we see in these temptations the way Jesus turns the trajectory of fallen humanity away from its downward spiral and back toward the Father. He enters into our fallenness and lifts it up.

Adam in the Garden was well fed, had dominion over the rest of creation, and was not subject to death. The Fall changes all that; because of the Fall, we are separated from God, from each other, and from our true selves! So the New Adam enters into the situation of creation after the Fall. He is hungry, humble, and will offer himself to the Father in death to reconnect us with God, with each other, and with our true selves. And yet, our fallenness remains, so we easily desire pleasure and comfort, self-sufficiency and control, prestige and praise.

The temptations in the desert are addressed to reach into this fallen condition and prey on all that has been lost. Jesus refuses to engage on the enemy’s terms and transforms the battle. He counters each temptation with words from Moses in Deuteronomy, defeating the enemy who has led every heart from the beginning of time through the labyrinth of selfwardness and sin.

When the enemy dangles the possibility of bread to eliminate hunger, Jesus answers, “One does not live on bread alone” (Deut. 8:3), subordinating his physical needs to a higher ideal.

When the enemy shows him all the kingdoms of the world and promises power and glory to overcome Jesus’ humility, Jesus replies, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Deut. 6:16), humbly recognizing that only God is self-sufficient and we depend on Him.

When the enemy challenges Jesus to throw himself down and prove his immortality to counter death, Jesus says, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Deut. 6:13), rejecting the instant fame that such a spectacle would have secured and rejecting the rejection of death.  

The enemy’s tactics haven’t changed much. Over and over again, in history and in our own lives, we see the temptation to what I call the “5 P’s”: pleasure, power, popularity, prestige, prosperity. All of these stem from the One Main P: Pride. We are not exempt from the battle, but Jesus has redeemed temptation and given us strength to fight for his Kingdom by exercising our love, humility, faithfulness, and obedience.

During Lent, let’s use the “weapons” of Confession and Communion, penance and prayer, to overcome the “P’s” in our own lives!

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

Feature Image Credit: GDJ, https://pixabay.com/vectors/jesus-christ-temptation-line-art-4201483/