Kathy Bernard - Publisher

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.
Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God
has promised to those who love Him.
- James 1:12


How easy it is to be tempted into doing something we may later regret. It can be a small temptation such as buying something we know we cannot afford or need, but at that moment in time, think it will bring pleasure to us.  But it is the bigger temptations we act upon that signal the step away from what God expects of us as Catholic Christians. 

According to the Catholic OnLine Encylopedia “Temptation is taken to be an incitement to sin whether by persuasion or by the offer of some good or pleasure. It may be merely external, as was the case of Christ's encounter in the desert after the forty days' fast; or it may be internal as well, inasmuch as there is a real assault upon a person's will power. It arises sometimes from the propensity to evil inherent in us as a result of original sin. Sometimes it is directly chargeable to the intervention of the Devil, who can furnish the imagination with its sinful subject-matter and stir up the lower powers of the soul. Not infrequently both causes are at work. Temptation is not in itself sin. No matter how vivid the unholy image may be, no matter how strong the inclination to transgress the law, no matter how vehement the sensation of unlawful satisfaction, as long as there is no consent of the will, there is no sin. The very essence of sin in any grade is that it should be a deliberate act of the human will. Attack is not synonymous with surrender. This, while obvious enough, is important especially for those who are trying to serve God sedulously and yet find themselves beset on all sides by temptations.”

Temptation is a refinement of our souls.  It is a necessary process which purifies and makes known the reality of Satan and the lengths he will go in trying to compromise our relationship with God. We must be on guard at all times, relying on the Lord to walk with us through the fires of refinement, to give us grace to overcome all obstacles.

Father Roger J. Landry speaking on the temptation of Christ in 2004 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis, Maine cites “The Holy Spirit led Jesus into a huge fifteen-by-thirty-five mile desert between the mountain of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea so that He could pray to the Father about the public ministry which He was about to commence.   He prayed and fasted for an incredible forty days, which obviously would have left Him physically weak and famished. It was at this moment that the Devil came to Him to tempt Him. Much like God the Father had once allowed Job to be tested, the same Father allowed His Son to be tempted. The first temptation was aimed right at Jesus’ tremendous hunger: 'If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of Bread.'  Jesus had come to save people, to feed their most important hunger — the hunger of their souls.   Jesus refused to change a stone into bread for the devil; but for us, His beloved flock, He  changes bread into His own flesh and blood for He is the word that comes from the mouth of God and God wants to put that Word in our mouths.  Let us not presumptuously tempt God by receiving Him and then going out and live in a way incompatible with the Gift we receive. Let us, rather, “worship Him, the Lord our God, and serve Him alone.”

As Christian Catholics we look to concerning ourselves with the welfare of our souls rather than the temporary that adds no value to our spiritual lives but takes away the purpose God has for us; that is to follow the precepts laid down by Jesus Christ.  The person who remains faithful under these trials "will receive as his reward the life which God has promised to those who love him" – James 1:12.  

Thomas A. Kempis, a mysticist writer (1380-1471) who wrote The Imitation of Christ which was widely considered one of the greatest manuals of devotion in pre-Reformation Catholic Christianity during the fourteenth and fifteenth century, has this to say about temptation: “Yet temptations, though troublesome and severe, are often useful to a man, for in them He is humbled, purified, and instructed. The saints all passed through many temptations and trials to profit by them, while those who could not resist became reprobate and fell away. There is no state so holy, no place so secret that temptations and trials will not come.  Man is never safe from them as long as he lives, for they come from within us—in sin we were born. When one temptation or trial passes, another comes; we shall always have something to suffer because we have lost the state of original blessedness.  Many people try to escape temptations, only to fall more deeply. We cannot conquer simply by fleeing, but by patience and true humility we become stronger than all our enemies. The man who only shuns temptations outwardly and does not uproot them will make little progress; indeed they will quickly return, more violent than before.   Little by little, in patience and long-suffering you will overcome them, by the help of God rather than by severity and your own rash ways. Often take counsel when tempted; and do not be harsh with others who are tempted, but console them as you yourself would wish to be consoled.

"The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways. Fire tempers iron and temptation steels the just. Often we do not know what we can stand, but temptation shows us what we are.  Above all, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold when he knocks.  Someone has said very aptly: ‘Resist the beginnings; remedies come too late, when by long delay the evil has gained strength.’ Kempis states. 

In an interview conducted by John Sondag, for "The Catholic Servant" in 2007, The Most Reverend John Nienstedt,  coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis , speaks about temptation saying: “There is Individualism; Hedonism; and Minimalism. Individualism leads us to such corporate situations as Enron where people feel that their workers’ money is their money and they can do whatever they want with it. It’s so much as saying, “Everything stops with me. It’s me, me, me.” That’s very prominent in our society today.

Hedonism says, “If it feels good, you do it.” That is compounded by the fact that we don’t really understand the reality of sin. We have seen it time and time again that people wander away from the commandments of God and they get in trouble. We see the promiscuity; we see the addictions that are prevalent in our society; we see the self-gratification that is all over the place. If it feels good, you do it. You have to challenge that, it seems. That’s a real weakness in our society.

And that sense of minimalism which says, “What’s the least I can do to get by? What’s the least I can do to get by in this test, in this course, in life?   What’s the least I can do to get to heaven?  So I think those are some of the weaknesses that are indigenous to our American culture. But they can be overcome.  These are all temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. In one way or another, they have been with us from the beginning of time, and they will be with us until the end of time—until the second coming of Jesus. We just have to be able to face that fact and realize that when we give in to temptation, we sin. Sin is real.  We see in the face of God and Jesus that He calls us to live a disciplined, holy life. And that means avoiding sin, avoiding temptation, avoiding these weaknesses that are present in our society.”

Someone once said that yielding to temptation can be compared to the “Yield” traffic sign on the corners of city streets.  It signifies that one must stop their car and “yield” the right of way to the other driver who is at the opposite corner street.  When  we “yield” to sin, we give this right of way to Satan.    He can only continue tempting us if we let him, otherwise he remains powerless.

Pope Benedict XVI speaking on temptation tells us “…As the psalmist speaks of the men and women of Israel who on their long journey toward Jerusalem resisted the temptations of the pagan temples on the hills by holding to their faith in God, people today will face similar temples of deceit on "our pilgrimage of life.  The lofty ideals of "wealth, power, prestige, a comfortable life, heights which are temptations because they really appear to be the promise of life.  But we in our faith in God know that these "summits are not true, are not life," he concludes.

Temptation is something we all face as Christian people, yes, particularly because we are Christians.  James 1:14 tells: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”  When you find yourselves in a tempting situation, look earnestly for the way out that the Lord has promised, running in the opposite direction as fast as you can.  “Since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” Hebrews 2:18.   And so, if we fall into sin through temptation, repent quickly while you still have the opportunity to do so.  

Quoting Thomas Kempis in conclusion: “We should not despair, therefore, when we are tempted, but pray to God the more fervently that He may see fit to help us, for according to the word of Paul, He will make issue with temptation that we may be able to bear it. Let us humble our souls under the hand of God in every trial and temptation for He will save and exalt the humble in spirit.  In temptations and trials the progress of a man is measured; in them opportunity for merit and virtue is made more manifest."

”The temptations in your life are no different
from what others experience. And God is faithful.
He will not allow the temptation to be more than
you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show
you a way out so that you can endure.”
-1 Corinthians 10:13

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