Temptations are a Gift
Every year on the First Sunday of Lent we hear one of the Gospel accounts of Our Lord going into the desert for forty days where He prayed and fasted and was tempted by the devil. We commemorate this with the forty days of Lent. Our Lord, by being tempted provides us with the encouragement we need, that with His help, we can face and overcome temptation.
Although it might sound an odd thing to say, God allows us to be tempted because we all need to be! One of the reasons He allows it is because it shows us what our weaknesses are. As a result we are humbled and realise we are not as strong as we would like to think. If we weren’t tempted we would probably become full of pride thinking we had overcome the sin.
We can also make satisfaction for our sins through temptation. It’s not very pleasant being tempted and it can even become a real suffering when we have to struggle and fight against something we know is sinful. This in turn purifies us, and by struggling against it we win the graces necessary to overcome it, and thus grow in holiness. We become more confident in God’s help and we come closer to Him because we realise that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
To overcome temptation we need to prepare for it, particularly through prayer and the regular reception of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. We should avoid the near occasions of sin, that is people, places and things that could lead us into sin. Also avoid idleness because as the saying goes, “The devil finds work for idle hands.” St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) tells us, “As soon as we become aware of a thought that has an evil look about it, we must dismiss it immediately. We must, as it were, slam the door in its face denying it admittance into the mind, without stopping to decipher its meaning or intention. We must shake off such wicked suggestions as quickly as we would shake off fiery sparks that landed on our clothes.” Also foster a devotion to Our Lady because she continues to crush the head of the serpent and there is no one Satan fears more than her. We should also invoke St Joseph as “Terror of Demons” because his purity, his humility and his obedience terrorises the devil.
So always remember, temptations are an opportunity to prove our love of God and to become holier by resisting them. God never allows us to be tempted beyond our strength (1 Corinthians 10:13). By our perseverance we will make great progress along the narrow path that leads to eternal life.
Fr Paul Gillham IC