Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Temptation

In the New Testament Letter of James the author tells us in Chapter 1 verses 14: ...each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death. 

The words from the biblical text put great emphasis on word desire, which is defined as to long, hope or express a wish for (OED). In its simplest form it seems to have no harm as we could assume that such feelings are directed towards the things that a human being needs to survive. However, if we take the words of Shahram Heshmat who says that: Desires are directed toward specific objects (or people) with a promise of gain in pleasure (or relief from discomfort) we can begin to explore the possibility that a person has what some call a wrongly formed conscience?

Immediately there are those who may want to step back and say that we shouldn't be so quick to judge based on the fact people in this world do not necessarily share the same values. The only problem with this relativistic way of thinking is that people do judge because people do believe not only in a sense of right and wrong but in the fact that there is a sense of universal truth. One simply has to spend about 10-15 minutes on Twitter to see how many tweets are offered as critical replies to a statement made by another. Why does this happen? Simply because someone believes that the person that they are responding to is wrong and if that is the case then such statements need to be addressed. Sadly, the most important thing that is missing is the source that has led to the thinking that is being criticized and in some cases it could have been the result of the person giving in to temptation.


The Company We Keep 

What leads us to such desires? A lot of that has to do with the company we keep along with where that company takes us. What are we exposed to? How are these realities explained to us? What are some of the promises that are made to us in order to help direct our decision making? Finally, are the potential consequences fully outlined? Rather than restate what has already been written I suggest we all take a look at this article written by Brain M:

https://theartofcharm.com/entrepreneurship/company-keep-determines/

The truth is, there are very few people that will be able to resist all that can be of influence to them. I would suggest that such people would have come from a very strong family background where they have been raised with a strong sense of right from wrong along with a strong sense of self. Still, it may take even more to resist certain temptations that come one's way.

In the midst of all of my life struggles there is one success story that I am pleased to share and that is my sense of sobriety. I have never touched any type of narcotic and when it came to alcohol I have rarely drank and if I was somewhat inebriated it was minimal with me never being at a point where I was not aware of where I was, what I was doing or that I needed to stop. As of now I may have a glass of wine at home maybe 2-3 times a year with me really having no desire to drink at all.

At a young age my parents gave me a strong awareness of what could happen to someone who took drugs. That and the fact that they had a strong intolerance to what could happen to me in terms of legal consequences should I decide to immerse myself in such behavior. Aside from that, I was a big fan of rock music to the point where I would read as many articles as I could with many of them talking about certain band members who may have been asked to leave their respected groups because of their drug problems. Then, as I got older and started performing in my own rock bands I saw firsthand such behavior both in my fellow band members and other peers to the point where I had to make the decision to distance myself from those who were enslaved to their addictions. I would learn even more about drug abuse when I would see the talent that many of these people lost after destroying their bodies and minds.

Over the years I still took the time to learn more about the effects of drugs so yes, I am able to stand in any room with any group of people and NOT participate in such behavior. I have what I believe is a strong sense of right and wrong along with the knowledge of the dangers that I could face, thus, allowing be to stand before a world of people who are now lobbying governments to change their laws in favor of their worldview. Meanwhile, such social changes will have no impact on my decision making when it comes to this issue because I have long known the reasons why I should never use drugs.

Why do I bring this personal story up? It was one of the moments of my life when I was blessed to have a full knowledge of a topic, to the point where I had enough confidence to stand before a majority without budging. So, imagine how much different we would be if we took the time to learn just as much with the things that tug at our hearts in the most difficult ways.


Lead Us Not Into Temptation  

This line from the Our Father prayer is kind of misleading, which is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following about the way it is stated in its original language: It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means, "both do not allow us to enter into temptation" and "do not let us yield to temptation." This extremely important because as the CCC continues: God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself tempts no one; (see also James 1:13) on the contrary, He wants to set us free from evil." (CCC 2846)  

For years students have asked me if God Himself is the one who leads us into temptation. While I could use the statement from both the CCC as well as the Letter of James to say no it is actually not that simple. Take for example the Hebrew word for temptation, which is narah. That word is defined as to try or to test and frankly, we simply have to look to one of the most famous biblical stories in the Old Testament to see this acted out: The Testing of Abraham (Genesis 22:1-19). Even though this story focuses on Abraham proving his faith to God he was still tested by God and in doing so he risked giving in to the temptation to run away in order to save his son's life. However, what did Abraham know about God at this point that led him to have enough trust in God to go through with the command to sacrifice his son Isaac without knowing that the Lord's messenger would come to stop him from killing his son?

The most important thing would be to know why God has given us His Commandments. First of all, the creator of the universe is also the designer of the reality in which we live so who better to know what is best for us? Second, we have first the Mosaic Law, which tells us what to do and then the teachings of Jesus that address the heart of the matter but God did not stop there. As Jesus said in John 16:4-11: I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the One who sent Me....it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation, sin. 

First off, in the coming of the Holy Spirit we see a full revelation of the Trinitarian God. Second, while opponents of God's will do all that they can to stop the truth from being revealed it has failed to do so from and will continue to do so. That is because no law, no movement, no threat can extinguish the truth. As Jesus said in John 16:13-14: But when He comes the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears , and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. 

The Spirit of God lives in those who accept the truth and that is why the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. What kind of courage does it take stand at death's door and refuse to conform to a lie? Second, what is the source of that courage? It is not something that only lives within the person facing such a threat. It is also the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit that guides this person.


Avoiding Temptation 

One of the teachings of chastity is that it helps us see through the false media messages in terms of how they sell our sexuality to the masses. In the words of Christopher West when speaking on the issue of lustful desire he says: If we surrender our lustful desires (and other sins) to Christ, He can transform them by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism proclaims tat in the Sermon on the Mount "the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires, those inner movements that animate our lives. Jesus teaches us this new life by His words; he teaches us to ask for it by prayer. the rightness of our life in Him will depend on the rightness of our prayer." 

That is why we should realize that the big question is what should do when faced with these moments when we are being tempted? In the words of the CCC 2848: "Lead us not into temptation" implies a decision of the heart; For were your treasure is, there will your heart be also....No one can serve two masters. 

Of course in the case of the true Master we know that it is not just about what we give to Him. According to 2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and power. Through these, He has bestowed on us precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 

In other words, just as what was said to our first parents in the Garden (Genesis 1:28-30), God will give us everything we need and according the words of 2 Peter, even the divine nature needed to resist temptation. That of course can only be done through prayer. From the CCC 2849: Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by His prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of His public mission and in the ultimate struggle of His agony.

Yes, through that prayer we can be like Jesus and send away our tempter but we have to look at it for what it is. It is a struggle. There are moments when we will fail. We have to take these struggles to prayer and ask our Heavenly Father to give us an understanding as to why His will is the way for all of us. Then we have to make the commitment to live in that way and to allow these graces to change us. We must also have the courage to stand before the tempter and proclaim that we will only worship God and God alone, regardless of how these temptations are presented to us. Consider this theatrical presentation of the Temptation of Our Lord: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ova6mIIZPto


Finally, we should not look at temptation as something without value. As my high school theology teacher used to tell us, without sin we would not know what is good. Consider these words from the CCC 2847: The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a "delight to the eyes" and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death (see also Proverbs 16:25).

If we deal with the temptation the right way we will learn the why behind God's law. We will see that God has commanded such things of us because He loves us and wants us spare us from the pain that we will endure should we give in to temptation. By doing so we can experience what our Lord says in Luke 17:21: For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you. 

Yes, God is with us but while He seeks to walk with us the tempter is, as stated in 1 Peter 5:8: prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. That means that while the Kingdom of God is among us that the reality of hell is also right before us....and we can get a taste of that in the same way that we can feel the love and grace of God. As stated in Sirach 15:14-17: When God, in the beginning, created man, He made him subject to his own free choice. If you choose you can keep the commandments; is it loyalty to do His will. There are set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose , stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, whichever he choose shall be given him. 

God gives us the freedom to make our own choices and will honor whatever comes out of these choices. However, if we choose Him then He will give us the things that we need to live as His children. That is why it says in James 1:12: Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that He promised to those who love Him. 


Sources 






Carlos Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified by the Theology of the Body Institute 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate
https://www.hcdtalks.com/