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Temptations

In 11 The Constant Church on 2013/08/25 at 12:00 AM

• Temptation is the focus of our Gospel today. Today we hear the familiar story of how Jesus retreated into the desert for 40 days after His baptism in the Jordan River.

• While He’s in the desert fasting, our Lord encounters the devil, who tries to seduce Him with various temptations.

• In our Catholic moral tradition, we understand that amongst all of the sins that are possible to commit, there are 7 capital sins that are the most objectionable of vices. And all of us, generally speaking, suffer with one or two of these vices.

• These capital or deadly sins are: lust, greed, pride, anger, envy, gluttony, and sloth. While it isn’t easy, facing the temptations these vices pose with courage and determination is part of the road we must all walk on the way to salvation.

• As with all parts of the Christian moral life, we must first turn to Christ and His example if we wish to overcome the temptations that afflict us.

• In our Gospel story today the devil misinterprets or misuses a portion of Scripture to arouse a temptation in Jesus. And Jesus very resolutely counters with another Scriptural passage that He interprets correctly.

• The point here is that Jesus’ response in the face of temptation is strong and forceful, and His response is completely rooted in a sound interpretation of Scriptural morality.

• Thus, if we hope to stave off sinful temptations, it is imperative for each of us to be well-grounded in authentic Catholic moral teaching, and to have a resolute will not to sin.

• It is also good for us to turn to the examples of the saints, like St. Francis, for help. But it’s especially important for us to have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the titles by which the Church has long venerated Mary is “Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners.”

• Being the Mother of our Redeemer, Mary receives us sinners with great compassion and prays for us so that we may escape damnation. For those who are devoted to her, Mary provides invaluable protection from sin and evil through her maternal prayers.

• From her throne in Heaven, she prays and intercedes for us, she does all she can for us, so that we might be triumphant in the face of temptations. Countless saints have recommended that, when faced with temptation, we should simply pray a Hail Mary for help.

• Moreover, when we pray to Mary for help, she turns us toward her merciful Son, increasing our trust and our hope in Him.

• As Catholics, we must also turn to the Sacraments for aid in fighting temptation, especially the Eucharist and Confession. Because they are two sacraments that we can receive as often as we wish, they are God’s primary vehicles for communicating the grace we need to grow in holiness.

• When we receive Holy Communion in a state of grace, it increases our union with the Lord, forgives our venial sins, and preserves us from grave sins. And confession, too, not only forgives our sins, but it also strengthens us in the face of future temptations.

• Therefore, if we’re serious about fighting sin and overcoming temptations, then it’s veryimportant that we make it a point to go to confession regularly and to receive Holy Communion regularly because they give us strength to fight our temptations.

• Keep in mind that going to confession only once a year is not going to confession “regularly.” That’s going to confession “annually,” and there’s a difference!

• The Lenten practices of fasting and almsgiving are also very useful in helping us overcome temptations. These are spiritual practices that are meant to help purify us, but they also strengthen our wills so that we will be stronger in the face of temptations.

• By saying no to things we enjoy, by forcing ourselves to give more to others, we gain greater mastery over our wills so that we have greater self-control in the face of temptations.

• But lastly we must also be people of prayer. Having a steadfast prayer life is absolutely essential to overcoming temptation and growing in holiness. And whatever prayer life we have must have some element of recollection and meditation.

• As important as they are, we cannot exist solely on simple verbal prayers. We must also have prayer that is rooted in complete silence. We must learn to shut out the noise and distractions of this world so that we might be fully recollected.

• To this end, my friends, we need to turn off our televisions and computers! TV and internet cause so many needless distractions. And quite honestly, if you spend more time watching television or surfing the internet than you do praying, you’ll never grow in holiness.

• Holiness requires silence for it is only in silence that we can truly hear God. While it is important for us to speak to God in our prayer, it is even more important that we learn to listen to Him. This is part of the genius of the Traditional Latin Mass.

• One of the criticisms that is leveled against the old Latin Mass is that people can’t understand what’s going on because most of it is in Latin. And yet that’s part of the point of it all!

• The Latin Mass fosters this sense of recollection and meditation by allowing people to get lost in the mystery of the Mass. The periods of silence, the Latin, and the intricate movements of the priest are all meant to foster a sense of awe and wonder that better enables us to meditate on the beautiful mysteries of our faith and thereby draw closer to God.

• And if you want to know what’s going on at the Latin Mass, you can always follow a missal that has Latin on one side and English on the other.

• But other means of praying, such as the Holy Rosary, Lectio Divina, and going to Adoration,are also wonderful forms of prayer that help us to meditate on the mysteries of our faith.

• The point is that meditation and recollection are necessary components of prayer if we wish to grow stronger in the face of temptations, for this type of prayer strengthens our  int4rior union with God and renders us more capable of cooperating with God’s graces.

• My friends, we all have temptations to face, and we will do so throughout our lives. But wedon’t always have to be a victim of our sinful inclinations. We can overcome sin and be victorious in the face of temptation.

• We can be victorious over our temptations by turning to Our Lady and the saints for their example and intercession, by faithfully and regularly partaking of Holy Communion  and Confession, by fasting and giving alms, and through our recollected prayer.

• Without real struggle against our temptations, none of us will win the crown of heaven. So as we move forward in our Lenten journey, let us turn to the Lord, trusting that “everyonewho calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Copyright 2010 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC

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