A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Resisting Temptation

Posted on: February 23, 2015

snufflin gbulldog

Cute as she is, even my bulldog is tempted to steal shoes in order to get a treat.

I might be tempted to buy a milk chocolate bar even though I’m trying to eat better, a book in the discount section of the bookstore when I have a stack at home, or yet another magazine about getting organized. (If no one reading this would be similarly tempted, it’s helpful to remember I’m a neat freak.)

It might seem that people give in to temptation more easily today, but I doubt that’s true. Consider what Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” And actress Mae West said, “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”

But giving in to temptation isn’t our only option, as Jesus’ example shows.

Remember that even Jesus was tempted. The Gospel reading for yesterday’s Mass told us Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13*). As our parish priest pointed out in his homily, temptation comes in our area of weakness. Matthew 4 tells us Jesus had been fasting for forty days and nights, and Satan first tempted him to satisfy his hunger (Matthew 4:3): “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’” Jesus resisted temptation, drawing on the scriptures in his responses to Satan (see Matthew 4).

We need to remind ourselves, as our priest also stressed, that temptation is not sin; we sin when we give in to temptation. If being tempted were the same as sinning, we would not find these words about Jesus in Hebrews 4:15:

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.

We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus, in his time on earth, was tempted, and so he knows what we go through. We can remind ourselves that we haven’t sinned until we’ve given in to what tempts us. We can draw strength from Jesus’ example, from the scriptures and from the Catechism. And if we do give in to temptation, we can receive God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation and, like King David, ask God to cleanse us of our sins and “put a new and right spirit” in us (see Psalm 51).

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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