Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew presents Satan’s trials and temptations of Christ: in the desert, the city and then on a mountain top. Christ withstands each test and resists each temptation. The passage is unforgettable and powerful in its depiction of Christ’s wisdom. But what does it say to us? What can we take from this extraordinary encounter?

One thing to note here is that Christ’s inaction – his holding back and resisting – is what distinguishes Him. His choice not to take any of the actions proposed by Satan lies at the heart of the passage. And so perhaps it is the restraint exhibited by Christ in this passage that we can try to model in our lives. Our moments of refraining from one thing or another can be some of our most constructive moments. In our day-to-day interactions, we may be our best selves, our most loving selves, when ready for opportunities to hold back, to resist an additional remark, to encourage others to take the lead.

Christ’s celebrated show of prudence and restraint in Matthew’s Gospel thus leads us to ask: When, in our actions and our words, can holding back be a way of moving things forward? How, in our relationships with others and in our communities, can restraint be loving and productive?

Timothy Joseph ’98
Associate Professor, Department of Classics