"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Thursday, March 8, 2018

LENT: THE USE OF TEMPTATIONS by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

"God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able."--1. Cor. x. 12.

There are Christians, dear brethren, who talk as if God were anything but faithful--Christians who look upon the trials and difficulties and temptations of this life as so many traps set by Almighty God to ensnare them. So it would seem, at least, from the excuse they offer for committing sin: "I was dreadfully tempted and could not resist." To talk and act in this wise is to do a great injustice to a faithful and loving God, and comes either from an imperfect knowledge of the nature of the temptation, or an ignorance of God's providence in regard to it. 

Know, then, that we must be tempted, and this from the very nature of our existence. We are made up of body and soul--at present two conflicting elements. There was a time when the soul, being the superior, had the right to command, and the body obeyed; but original sin destroyed that happy union of authority and submission, and the result has been a pitched battle ever since, the body with its passions striving for the mastery over the soul and its faculties.

Now, brethren, in this conflict the soul has to contend with many enemies. We have a battleground within us, our own evil inclinations and inordinate desires--a source of contention ever present, which we will carry with us throughout life, and for every action, every impulse, a battle has to be fought and a victory or defeat has to be scored.

And again, we have our enemies from without. The devil, who is always on the alert, ready to pounce upon us in our unguarded moments--who employs the world and the flesh in order the better to accomplish his ends--this is our great enemy from without.

All this is not very encouraging, this perpetual struggle with flesh and blood, with powers and principalities. But we must never forget that we are not alone in this conflict; that we have God with us, a God who is faithful and will not suffer us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. We must also remember that temptation, of whatever kind, is never permitted save for our good, as a source of merit, the raw material out of which our glory comes. Our moral powers need exercise. This is a principle in the divine economy. The use of a limb strengthens it, while an arm tied up loses its power. So it is with the soul--without temptations and trials it would lose most of its spiritual vigor. Things upon which much depends are worth nothing until tried, and an eternity of happiness or woe depends on the trials to which the soul is exposed.

Let us understand, then, the true nature of these temptations. A temptation may be said to be an allurement of the soul towards evil under the guise of something good, or the allurement of the soul to a forbidden good. It is this very appearance of a good to be obtained that makes the temptation dangerous and sin at all possible. For no man is base enough or fool enough to commit a sin simply and solely because he wants to offend God. For example: a man commits a theft, certainly not for the mere pleasure there is in robbery--no, but because he discovers that there is to accrue to him some present good from his theft. It is, therefore, the apparent good in the temptation that makes it at all palatable.

So it happens, brethren, when the devil would lead us astray he transforms himself, says the Apostle, into an angel of light, and we must be on our guard to detect him. If you were to meet, for instance, some venomous snake with loathsome spots upon his scales, his eyes full of rage, his head raised to strike you, hissing and showing his fangs, there would be no temptation to have to do with him; you would know that you had to do with an evil reptile, and you must either kill him or escape from him at once. But if, again, you were to meet, as you may meet in the tropics, a lovely little coral snake, its mouth so small that it seems impossible that it can bite, and so gentle that children may take it up and play with it, then you might be tempted, as many a child has before, to fondle it, wreathe it around the neck for a necklace, till the play goes one step too far, the snake loses its temper, gives one tiny scratch upon the lip, and that scratch is certain death.

So it is with most of our temptations; they appear pleasant at first, but their sting is soon felt, and we discover to our dismay that the wages of sin-is death. Take this lesson home, brethren; We must needs be tempted; then let us fight our battles manfully, knowing that God is with us, that He is faithful, and that His grace is sufficient.



"The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."--Matt. xiii. 32.

The progress of spiritual life is slow with most of us, my dear brethren. We go along day by day, and it seems as if we had advanced but little since the day we began. It seems to us as if we were still standing at the starting-place, and the goal as far off as ever. The good resolutions which we made when we began to serve God are not forgotten, neither are they broken. But the same evil influences are all about us, tempting us and luring us on to commit sin again, as in the days of our wickedness--those sins which we renounced years ago, and which we have renounced many a time since.

And the older we grow the fiercer, perhaps, become those temptations. We think it may be that now we ought to be free from them; that as we have stopped sinning, the desire, even involuntary, of sinning again ought to leave us. And because temptations continue we imagine that sin is within us and that we must purge it out. So we try to make a general confession. The result is not satisfactory, and we fret and worry and delude ourselves with the belief that we are wholly evil and that we have made no progress since we started. We have fallen into the error so common, especially among pious people, that concupiscence is sin.

The truth of the whole matter is this, summed up in a few words of Holy Scripture: "My son, when thou comest to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation."

God wishes us to purge our souls as well as to strengthen them, and He allows us to be tempted that we may have not only the merit of resistance, but also the strength which comes from repeatedly engaging in battle with the enemy. For the more you fight, the greater will be your experience in the battles to come; and the more victories you gain, the more easily will you gain those which God puts in your hand.

The whole man is to be purged and cleansed. Nothing undefiled can enter Heaven. So if you have put yourself into the hands of God, you must let Him do with you what He pleases. He has His ways and means, and His ways are not your ways. So He allows Satan to tempt you as He allowed him to tempt St. Paul and Job, and indeed all His chosen ones. He has chosen you, and He asks you to be patient while He works out His purpose in your soul. Look, therefore, on the temptations with which you are beset as so many chances by which you may resist, and so advance. Indeed I would not bid you to ask anything else from God but grace to overcome. With each temptation that comes there comes a grace tenfold stronger, which is for your use. Use it then boldly for the honor of God and the good of your soul. And do not be discouraged if these temptations last as long as your life in this world. Do not get discouraged in the Christian life and be tempted to say: "I make no advance, because I am not free from temptation." But rather in the midst of your trials say with St. Paul: "I have fought the good fight; there is laid up for me a crown of justice in Heaven."