In this life you will never be completely free from enticement to sin. The devil will continue to offer temptations, knowing your individual weaknesses. God allows these temptations to remind us how weak we are and how much we need his aid to live a Christian life. Seven days without God makes one weak, but we should never be without him. “God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
A temptation is an enticement to sin. It is not a sin on your part. Saint Francis deSales, a doctor of the church, spoke of three steps of “temptation, delectation and consent.” Only if you willingly take pleasure in the thought of sinning (delectation) then you actually begin to sin. Many times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t entertain impure thoughts, they entertain me.” We don’t have to go looking for temptation because it will find us.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says: “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery is the big sin that Jesus breaks down to the root cause. The temptation enters the mind and takes root in the heart. It will grow and become stronger until it is acted upon.
Consider the problem of pornography today. It not only destroys marriages, it destroys lives. I know people in prison because of what was found on their computers at work. In the movie “Fireproof” it was pornography that was threatening the marriage. It was a rather dramatic destruction of the computer that showed the victory of grace over that addiction and saved the marriage.
A spiritual director once told me “If in your prayers you are distracted or tempted 100 times, do not be discouraged. It means that 100 times you have turned back to God. Recognize his grace at work and take heart.”
Once the devil has recognized a temptation that works on you, he will continue to use it. Even when you have learned to resist his temptations, he will come back again and again hoping that you will become complacent. Every day, do good and fight evil. Remember who your enemy is and who is on your side.
Father Patrick Toner is pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 140 West Ave., Plain City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 873-8850.