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Roman Triumphal arch panel copy from Beth Hatefutsoth, showing spoils of
Jerusalem Temple [*]
Time of Temptation
faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted
beyond your strength.”
In today's Epistle,
St. Paul is telling the Corinthians about the journey of the Jewish
people through the desert to escape the Egyptians and enter the
Promised Land. He is explaining to them that God made the Jews
wander in the desert for some 40 years, because of their
infidelities toward Him. Specifically, Paul assumes that his
readers have read the Book of Numbers and its 14th and 21st
chapters. After being delivered from Egypt, the people were often
rebellious, complaining that their deliverance from slavery also
meant a great deal of hardship and insecurity as they wandered
through the desert. They murmured, they complained, and often
enough they gave themselves over to the worship of the false gods of
the nations with whom they came into contact.
If you have been
following the Scripture program at our website, you read about the
incredible unfaithfulness of King Solomon with his thousand
wives—many of them pagans, who got him to worship their false gods.
Paul relates these
things to the Corinthians in order to warn them of the need to avoid
temptation in order to enter into that land that has been promised
to Christians, the Kingdom of Heaven. Otherwise they would not
receive the graces of God in this life, nor the promised reward of
the next life.
The Gospel was
selected to convey the same message, and to take it a step farther.
Our Lord was lamenting the fate of the city of Jerusalem because He
knew that even among those Jews who inhabited the land of Israel
there would be rejection and infidelity. And because of this
rejection of the Messiah and His Gospel, the city would be
destroyed—literally left with not one stone standing on another
totally flattened! (Except for a portion of the Temple wall.)
The message here is
that if we court temptation and yield to it, even those of us who
have practiced the Catholic Faith all of our lives can put ourselves
in danger of eternal destruction. We are reminded that our
salvation is something that must be worked out over the entire
course of our lifetime—it is not a onetime thing that we can do and
just forget about.
So, it might do us
some good to examine this problem of temptation. After all the
temptations of the Israelites were not much different than our
own—they had their lusts, and their complaints against each other,
and some times they were tempted to despair and lose their faith—it
is an immemorial problem.
But Saint Paul
provides us with a bit of hope. He promises that if we cooperate
with the graces He gives us, God will not permit us to be tempted
beyond our strength to resist He will always give us a means of
expects us to do our part; to avoid unnecessary temptations by
avoiding those persons and places and things that might lead us to
sin, particularly when it is not necessary for us to deal with
them; The idea here is that we can cope best with temptation by
doing our best not to get ourselves tempted. He expects us not to
take delight in the temptations we do undergo. And He expects us to
remain in the state of grace through frequent Confession and
We would also do
well to remember that temptation, in and of itself, is not sinful.
Temptations appeal to our normal human instincts in order to
stimulate our emotions. If they go no farther than that, they
simply tell us that our minds and bodies are still working. In fact
we might think of those emotions as a sort of warning alarm,
designed to remind us to back away from the source of temptation.
[When your heartbeat goes up, and you can feel your ears turning
red, it is time to start thinking about what you are doing—before it
is too late.]
Finally, we ought
to be aware that when we conquer those temptations that come our
way, we are doing something that is positively good in the eyes of
God. When we are tempted, and then choose a good path of behavior
instead of a bad path of behavior, we are doing something
meritorious; essentially demonstrating that our love of God is
stronger than our evil inclinations.
So, lest we be like
the money changers whom Our Lord chased out of the temple, or like
the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the Roman legions came through
town; let us all be sure to remain in the state of grace, avoid the
unnecessary occasions of sin, not take delight in the temptations we
do undergo, and train our emotions to warn us of impending trouble.
And, always do try to take the path that leads toward God and do it
for the love of God. For only in this way can we take something
that might cause us to lose our souls and turn it into an eternity
of glory with God in the promised land of heaven.