One of my favorite plays is “Murder in the Cathedral” by T.S. Eliot. The story takes place in 12th Century England in the reign of King Henry II. Thomas, a Becket, is a good friend of the king and serves him well. When Henry has Thomas appointed to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas realizes that he is no longer representing the king. He is presenting the church and he has to answer to God.
Henry wants Thomas to use his church title to abuse the power of the church for Henry’s benefit. Thomas does not allow this abuse of peer pressure to happen.
In the play, a succession of tempters visits Archbishop Becket, three of whom parallel the Temptations of Christ. The first tempter offers the prospect of physical safety.
“Take a friend’s advice. Leave well alone,
“Or your goose may be cooked and eaten to the bone.”
In other words, don’t rock the boat. That way you will be safe and won’t get hurt. Thomas rejects the temptation.
Jesus was also tempted to turn stones into bread for his own benefit. He rejected it and quoted scripture that said, “Not by bread alone does one live, but by the very word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The second tempter offers power, riches and fame in serving the King.
“To set down the great, protect the poor,
“Beneath the throne of God can man do more?” Again, Thomas rejects the temptation.
The devil also showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in all their glory and promised that he could have them all if he compromised with evil. He would not worship the devil.
The third tempter suggests a coalition with the barons and a chance to resist the king and to “take control.”
“For us, Church favor would be an advantage,
“Blessing of Pope powerful protection
“In the fight for liberty. You, my Lord,
“In being with us, would fight a good stroke.” Again, he rejects this.
Jesus was tempted to use his own power for his own good. Throw yourself down. God will protect you. Jesus rejects any misuse of his power.
Last of all, a tempter urges him to seek the glory of martyrdom.
“You hold the keys of heaven and hell.
“Power to bind and loose: bind, Thomas, bind,
“King and bishop under your heel.
“King, emperor, bishop, baron, king.”
“Becket responds to this the fourth tempter:
“Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
“Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
“The last temptation is the greatest treason:
“To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
“Thomas achieves peace of mind by electing not to look for sainthood, but to accept death as inevitable.
What about us? Jesus and Thomas are part of our “dream team” who have gone before us and showed us how to resist the devil.
Are we always seeking our own security and safety, afraid to stand up for what is right? Are we afraid of what people might say about us if we speak out? Are we seeking riches, power and fame?
Is our prayer “Give us today our daily bread,” or, “Lord, help me win the lottery?”
Do we use our power for our own personal gain? We all have power of one kind or another. Do we seek to do God’s will or do we want to do it our way? Do we do the right deed for the right reason? Jesus told us that if we pray, fast and share our financial resources with others, but we did it for other to see, it would do us no good at all.
Again, it is not what we do, but why we do it.