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