February 6, 2013
This post is a continuation of the series on sin.
Temptation wears many masks of enticement, all hinting that evil is good for the one being drawn from the narrow path. Siren songs emitted from the deadened lips of the deceiving image promise what can never be, driving souls ultimately to permanent and irrevocable loss unless they resist again and again or repeatedly repent.
Of itself, temptation is neither good nor evil. It is always an opportunity to use our free will to say yes or no to God. He allows us to be tempted to humble us; to show us that we are helpless on our own because we, of our own power cannot defeat temptation. Only by God’s grace, which He bestows upon us abundantly, can we be victorious (2 Cor. 12:9).
Temptation is not sin, but to deliberately place oneself into temptation is a sin. It is purposely flirting with evil, just as the alcoholic who steps into the bar places himself in grave danger of committing the mortal sin of drunkenness. It is the moral equivalent of deliberately placing ourselves into grave physical danger for no good purpose such as walking through a bad area of town where drive by shootings happen frequently.
Hanging out with bad companions who read pornographic magazines or watch pornographic videos, do drugs, gossip, lie, cheat, steal, and commit violence against others is a sin because when we associate with these people we are knowingly placing ourselves into temptation. Moreover, we are tempting God and will most likely fall into sin ourselves. “Oh, I can handle it,” or “They’re the ones doing it and I’m just going along for the ride,” has brought more than one soul to the brink of hell. Amusing ourselves with bad companions is like jumping into a cesspool. We can’t expect to come out smelling anything but revoltingly stinky.
Sometimes we unwittingly place ourselves into temptation or stumble into it because we haven’t been taught proper vigilance or knowledge of where the danger originates. This is a failure on the part of those who are supposed to teach us morals and the powerful defense mechanisms necessary for victory in spiritual warfare.
Sometimes we are forced into occasions of sin where we do not will to be, or presented with opportunities to sin we did not invite and do not welcome. We cannot control the placement of lascivious billboards we must pass on the way to work, nor the gatherings of spiteful gossips in the break room, but we can choose not to look and not to participate.
Three great figures of the spiritual combat, the world, the flesh, and the devil, challenge us unremittingly as Soldiers of Jesus Christ. They are the sources of temptation that sweetly beckon us to choose everything that is Not God. They are most effective when we discard our ascetic practices of fasting, penance, self-denial, and our weapons of prayer – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Bible reading and prayer (Lectio Divina), the Rosary, and other practices of communicating with God appropriate to our state in life. They represent the swamp all souls must navigate to arrive on the other side of the narrow gate.
We cannot escape exposure to the world, the flesh, and the devil. One we live in, one we live with inseparably, and one lurks in our vicinity seeking to capitalize on our inherent weaknesses. Sometimes all three combine to suck us into a vortex of sin.
What exactly do we mean by the world, the flesh, and the devil? These terms are centuries old in moral theology and spiritual development. All the saints now in heaven and on earth fought victorious battles resisting their enticements. Each one deserves exploring in a blog post so that we have sufficient information to make the choice for God. To try to cover all three here and now would make this post too long. So stay tuned as we take a hard look at each one in turn and study ways to win against them with the help of God.
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R. Now and forever!
(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)
This post is linked to Sabbath Moments at Thoughts on Grace.
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