Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost—14 August A.D. 2011

On Temptation

“Let no temptation take hold on you.”

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    St. Paul cautions us today about the need to refrain from any of the activities that will lead us to sin.  “Do not covet evil things,” he tells us.  He speaks of the problem of temptation—something we ought to consider, in order to be able to avoid it.

    What happens when we are tempted is essentially that we want to mis-use something in a way not intended by our Creator.

    In, and of, themselves, material things are inherently good.  They have to be, because they were all created by God.  They were created, as we were, for His glorification.  And, as His creatures, we have the use of creation for this end.  Since we are material beings, we must make use of material things, and in so doing, we perform our part in the divine plan.

    The goodness of things is what attracts us to them.  Be they beautiful, or fragrant, or delicious, or whatever;  they are so because God made them for our use.   God made them attractive to us in order that    even without thinking about it    we are drawn to maintain and preserve our lives.

    The problem appears when we decide to mis-use something we are drawn to, or when we use it to excess.  For example:

*  Food is necessary to maintain our health    but overeating will damage it.

*  The love of man and woman is necessary to sustain the race    but when misused it leads to shame and sorrow; even violence and hatred.

*  Our power of speech is good, enabling us to cooperate with other people, to comfort, to inspire, to pray    but the same gift of speech can be perverted to insult, to lie, to curse.

    In all of these cases, we are making something bad out of something good, either by excess or misuse.

    Now, the reason that there is temptation is that the things that tempt us are, indeed, designed to appeal to us.  So it is relatively easy for the devil, or just our own perverse imagination, to put it in our head that these things would be even better if we misused them in some way.

*  If 2 eggs are good, 4 would be better, and 6 or 8 must be better still.

*  If having a wife is good, an extra girlfriend or two will be better.

    We laugh when we say such things out loud, but that is about what we often do in reality.  We carry our natural inclinations to exaggerated ends.

    This suggests that one of the ways we can avoid temptation to sin is simply to be well grounded in reality.  God gave us our intellect precisely for this reason;  to keep our unbridled will in check;  to monitor our attractions and determine if following our inclinations is truly in our best interest.  People who refuse to think, and always trust themselves to their emotions, will have a greater difficulty avoiding temptation and sin.  Unless, perhaps, they have a very strong love of God, that over-rides most other attractions.

    And that, of course, suggests that we ought to make a point of developing an attachment to God and to holy things.  Time spent in prayer, or meditation, or in reading sacred scripture, or other spiritual works, will help us to grow in the love of God, and away from the love of material things.  Unlike material things, spiritual things become more and more pleasurable, the more we experience them.  And they may fill some of that idle time when it is so easy to sit around and look for ways to get into trouble.

    Keeping busy with innocent things is always good, even if they are not holy things.  In fact, we ought to have a few innocent things we like to think about, so that whenever we are tempted, we have something good to turn our attention to, away from whatever evil has popped into our mind.  (I like to mentally design the church we will have when I hit the Lotto.)

    Remember too, that temptation itself is not sinful.  Temptation is nothing more than a thought;  a momentary, improper attraction to something good.  It is only when we begin to give intellectual consent to the temptation that things become sinful.  And make no mistake about it, thoughts can be sinful.  Evil thoughts represent a drawing away from God.  And you can be pretty sure that if you rehearse some sinful act over and over in your mind, you will actually go and commit that sin.

    If I might summarize, then:

*  Be thoughtful.  Don't act on impulse or emotion.

*  Cultivate the love of God, and of spiritual things.  Particularly the Blessed Mother and her Rosary.

*  Find good things to ponder, substituting them for evil thoughts.

*  Don't rehearse bad ideas over and over in your mind.

*  And if you do fall into temptation, make a good Confession just as quickly as possible.

    Lastly, take encouragement from what Saint Paul tells us today:  “God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.”


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