Here’s a little commercial that requires very little decoding. A woman enters an office, and spying a very nice pen, has thoughts of petty theft. Just as she is about to depart, stolen pen in hand, a voice from above says, “Don’t! It’s a trap!” She looks up to see a co-worker swinging in a net that has swooped him up.

And so too for us, when temptation comes our way, we often hear that voice “from above” saying “Don’t It’s a trap!” But the voice we hear is not of some fellow sinner, but is that of God.

For Scripture says,

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

And the Catechism says,

Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) # 1776)

Yes, there is that small, still voice of God, who in the midst of our temptations, reminds us that the sinful pleasures the world, the flesh and devil propose are ultimately traps and lies. And whatever good we may imagine in, them through vain reasoning, is ultimately a deception.

Don’t, it is a trap.

14 Responses

  1. Taylor says:

    Very good :-)
    Thank you.

  2. jj says:

    PREACH!! Every voice we hear in our head is not of God. Test or prove it to see where it’s oming from. Just remember IT’S ONLY A TEST.

  3. Nick says:

    That reminds me of Don Bosco’s vision of hell

    Of course, it is just private revelation. But a good reminder of what we know by faith.

  4. Bender says:

    A couple of days ago, we read:
    Vague! “Avoid immorality?” It may as well have said “Do good and avoid evil.” Nothing could be more vague.

    I think we have stubbled upon that thing that is more vague — far more vague — than “avoid immorality,” and that is the teaching on “conscience.”

    So vague, in fact, that the term and teaching have been twisted and distorted to justify all sorts of unconscionable things. Oh, how many objectively immoral things have been justified on the basis of someone saying “my conscience says it is OK and, besides, the Church says that we MUST follow our conscience, so I’m going to do it”?

    How many priests in the 60s and 70s told their parishioners to go ahead and reject Humanae Vitae and use contraception if their conscience told them to? And how many years has it taken and how much effort has been expended trying, often in vain, to undo that faulty understanding and try to tell people that their understanding of “conscience,” and our “obligation” to follow it, is practically 180 degrees from what the Church actually teaches?

    • Is there a good definition of conscience that you like. I understand your concern here but have not taken time to look in older catechisms and frankly I struggle with understanding Thomas on this matter

      • Bender says:

        The Catechism (CCC 1777-78) properly notes that it involves objective truth and reason and the voice of God, but those key distinctions are buried in the text, so they are still susceptible of being distorted by those who would use “conscience” to justify doing what is objectively wrong.

        Blessed Pope John Paul II speaks of it well in the Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem. And then there is Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict in various talks that he has given, in 1990, 1991, and 2007, including drawing from Blessed John Henry Newman on the matter.

        Here is a blog posting that provides a summary of those sources (with links), attempting to properly define “conscience,” and as applied in the context of Sophie Scholl, of the anti-Nazi White Rose German resistance movement —

        Conscience is not the same as one’s opinions or feelings, rather, it is a judgment of reason in the application of objective moral truth to a particular case. The word “conscience” comes from the Latin “con-scientia,” meaning “with knowledge.” Knowledge of what? Knowledge of something other than ourselves, something that is beyond the self — knowledge of truth, knowledge of the voice of He who is Truth itself, the God who exhorts us to love in truth.

        One cannot justify his conduct merely by saying that, because he does not feel bad or think it wrong, such conduct does not violate his “conscience,” as if he could choose or create his own conscience. That is not the conscience, that is the will.

        The Nazi leader Hermann Goring proclaimed, “my conscience is Adolf Hitler.” Others proclaim, “my conscience is myself.” But the foundation of conscience is not man, but God.

        Rightly understood, conscience is not the voice of self, but the voice of God within our hearts, our very souls, it is the light which is given us so that we might make our way in the dark. We ourselves are not the light, God is the Light.

        The task of conscience is not to create moral truth, but to perceive it. The judgment of conscience does not establish the law or decide for itself what is right or wrong; rather it bears witness to the authority of the natural law, it is the voice of Truth within the person calling him to act in conformance with truth, to do good and avoid evil.

        A good conscience does not restrict human freedom, but instead calls a person to genuine freedom in truth, for only in truth will one be set free. A poorly formed “conscience” is not one that is “with knowledge,” but is instead one that is “with ignorance.” So the obligation to follow one’s conscience is an obligation to follow a good conscience, one that is “with knowledge” of transcendent truth, and not a bad or erroneous or malformed counterfeit “conscience.”

        In journeying through life, now and then we come to a crossroads and must choose between the good or the evil. When confronted with evil, we have an obligation in conscience, written as law upon our hearts, to do the good and resist and fight the evil. One cannot stand idly by in the face of evil. To simply go along and avoid having to confront evil can quickly become cooperation with evil, especially since evil often will not leave you alone, but will demand your involvement and approval. Many otherwise “good” Germans merely went along with the Nazis, afraid of the consequences if they were to resist that evil, but not Sophie Scholl.

        Her love of what is right and good and just, building on rock by placing her faith in God, rather than in a twisted anti-God despot whose hatred for the inherent dignity of man offered only the hopelessness of Hell to the people of the world, gave Sophie the grace and fortitude to defiantly shine the light of truth on the evils of the Nazi regime. Inspired by the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, Blessed Clemens August von Galen, Catholic Bishop of Münster, and other Catholic scholars and thinkers, Sophie sought to awaken the conscience of the German people so that they might liberate themselves from the great evil of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.

        (The above blog excerpt is part of an extended series discussing the issue of the conscience, especially in the context of Sophie Scholl, Thomas More, marriage and family, life issues, and resistance to evil generally.)

        • Bender says:

          To simply go along and avoid having to confront evil can quickly become cooperation with evil, especially since evil often will not leave you alone, but will demand your involvement and approval.
          __________________

          As an example of evil refusing to leave you alone, of instead demanding your involvement and approval, we need go no further than yesterday the federal government decreeing that, with very few exceptions, religiously-run institutions, including Catholic ones, must pay to provide contraception to their employees.

          • Bender says:

            And, as an example of the gross distortions and twisting of the concept of “conscience,” we need go no further than Commonweal, in today’s posting, Obama Defends Conscience.

            (Commonweal is one of those usual suspects whose politics informs and controls their faith, rather than the other way around, so that it can be relied upon to say that the Church is always wrong, while those opposed to the Church are always right. And by proclaiming itself to be Catholic, while routinely engaging in virulent anti-Catholicism, who knows how many people have been led astray and had their minds and souls poisoned against the Church?)

  5. jj says:

    @ Bender and Msgr Pope. This is a very good question that Bender brings up. I too would like to explore this more deeply. Holla back.

  6. Linus says:

    At least she had time to decide. What about those more insidious incidents, usually involving sensual feelings or images or thoughts or desires which just happen out of the blue and where some sort of forbidden pleasure is immeciately present before one has a chance of rejecting it. Leaves one feeling defeated at the outset, like consent has already been given by the fact of the unbidden pleasure. Roll onself in the briars ! What is one to do.?

    • Well, don’t confuse temptation with sin. An unholy thought is a temptation. Simply the fact that we have an unholy thought and even find it appealing for a moment (for why would it be tempting if it were not appealing), does not mean we have automatically sinned. Rather, we incur sin only when we dwell on and accept the thought. Granted, there are some gray areas when it comes to knowing exactly when we have gone on to dwell and accept a thought, since memory also plays a role. But don’t simply conclude that the mere existence of an unholy thought is ipso facto proof that we have already sinned.

  7. Bob says:

    I always hear that voice of conscience before making a decision, then I either regret or thank the Lord for the choice. So the Lord is always steering us back on course when we stray. It seems to be a never ending cycle of choice, judgement and reconciliation. As the psalmist says, When you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts, or Jesus…you will know a tree by its fruits.

  8. Cynthia BC says:

    Another way to look at this commerical is through the lens of the parable about Lazarus and the rich man.

    The rich man, in torment due to his lack of charity to poor Lazarus, wants to warn his relatives so that they may avoid his fate. He is told, however, that his relatives have received warnings enough from the prophets and that they have already determined their fate.

    No doubt the man trapped in the net knew that stealing is wrong. If “Thou Shalt Not Steal” weren’t enough, there are laws and employer policies that exact penalties even for “petty” thefts. Nonetheless, steal he does, and as a result he is swept away to humiliation as was the rich man to his torment.

    Unlike the rich man in the parable, the man in the net is able to warn off his colleague. But like the rich man, the man in the net focuses more on the penalty than on the value of obedience to the law.

    We should strive to comply with the Ten Commandments, not because we wish to avoid the penalties of Hell (or at least Purgatory) but because we love and respect God.

  9. Peter Wolczuk says:

    First, Bender’s response on 21 January at 1:04 PM reminds me of a concept which, in the context of faith, is often stated as, “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good Christians to do nothing.”
    I s’pose that the option mentioned in Matthew 16:26 and Mark 8:36 is covered here. The immediate and worldly is in our face and the far off glories of a heavenly existance? Well, maybe we can catch up on that later. Like “borrowing” a bit out of our retirement fund for that luxury of today but, when it’s time to pay back and to make the next installment, well how about that thing that’s just a bit better than what the Jones family next door have?
    Then, if it’s only a pen, I could hope that I’ll last until I get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and fix it all – right? This brings up a startling discovery when I enquired about something during confession not so long ago. I asked if a belief that sinning was ok, based on the assumption that I could confess the sin during that Sacrament and be absolved was a sin in itself. If I went ahead and sinned and nothing intervened to prevent me from making it to confession would my rationalization be a sin in itself. I was told that it was not so much a sin as being presumptuous of God’s mercy.
    Well, I was pretty dysfunctional most of my adult life and, as is sometimes said, “birds of a feather flock together” since it’s a lot more comfortable short term to prop up each other’s lies that help us to avoid the painful healing we needed rather than to bite the bullet and cleanse the old wounds. Those whom I met in those environments who’d been raised as Catholics all seemed to tell me of a hypocracy that they’d been taught, namely that they could live as they pleased and go to confession and get off the hook. The impression that this was taught by the representatives (clergy and delegated laity) of the body of Holy Church seemed implied but now it seems more like dysfunctional adults who hung out with others of the same and that no finger of blame was appropriate because this (and other imperfections) had rippled from one generation to the next throughout the millenium since the fall from grace.
    In my fear to leave my self destructive comfort zone I would choose to hang out with groups who grew up with this belief, without even the small excuse that I was born into it. My choices led to the overwhelming exposure. Furthermore, by drifting forth and back from the Pacific to Atlantic coast of Canada in search of what I was running from, I continually encountered this belief.
    Questions; how prevalent is this “presumption” among unfortunate social groups who pass on a flawed belief system of avoidance of responsability which they’ve inherited, like some one passing on a disease that they’re unaware of having? Should the church send a clear message to all who listen, again to avoid finger pointing, that such presumption of God’s grace is more dangerous than dancing on a cliff edge over a raging fire? I doubt that anything can be done about the past but; can the brakes be pulled up here and now in this generation? God grant that wiser heads than mine may decide.
    In conclusion of this seemingly meandering response I take comfort in the example set by our Saviour Himself when, in Matthew 4:8&9, He refused to give up His heavenly destiny, which was still years away, for all the earthly kingdoms that Satan had subjected – even though His human part had undergone a very demanding task and likely craved relief.

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