The fight against temptation is a key Lenten theme and, of course, one that extends to each day of our life if we are going to be serious followers of the Lord.
There is something rather mysterious about temptation. We are often strangely drawn to things that harm us, and even knowing this, we still feel the attraction. Deep within, we hear the warnings of conscience, but still we move toward sin and to many things that we know are both wrong and dangerous. How strange we are!
Theologians have used the word “concupiscence” to describe our inordinate attractions or desires, and it is the surest evidence that something is deeply and desperately wrong with us. It describes a condition wherein our “cupio” (our “desires”) are off the charts, over the top, and just plain unruly. So easily do our passions want to simply overrule the most basic common sense and draw us into utter foolishness and self-destruction.
Back in the late 1980s, it became fashionable in some circles to deny Original Sin and dismiss it as a mere myth. Once when a radicalized nun told me that she did not “believe” in original sin, I responded, “Are you kidding?!” Of all the teachings of the Church, there is perhaps none with so much daily evidence as to its veracity. I instructed the good sister to go and buy a newspaper and, after having read its daily recitation of violence, corruption, confusion, disorder, war, and greed (and that’s just page one), to explain to me what on earth is so desperately wrong with us. “If it isn’t Original Sin, Sister, what the devil is it?!”
Yes, we seem to have a screw loose. Call it what you will: concupiscence, our fallen nature, the flesh; yes, call it what you will, but don’t call it non-existent. It is something to be quite sober about. Our desires are out of whack and need daily discipline. Otherwise, the devil can get us with many different lures.
The Catechism advises:
Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis [the practice of self-discipline] adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer (# 2340).
Well said. We do well to remember the following:
- Self-knowledge can be gained by learning some of the deeper drives within us, naming them, learning their moves, and developing strategies to limit their inordinate influence.
- The practice of self-discipline is essential in growing stages. The Lenten practice of self-denial is a form of this. So is taking on new duties and requirements when we are becoming lax.
- Obedience begins with a careful listening to God’s commandments and asking for a teachable spirit that rejoices in the truth.
- Virtue is a “good habit” and habits only develop through repeated effort. Practice makes goodness easier and eventually almost effortless.
- Prayer too, which at its heart is simply paying attention to God, is also an essential remedy.
Battle temptation! Otherwise, you are easy pickings for the devil; you’re low hanging fruit and you’ll easily be snatched away.
This video is a good allegory for temptation. A certain young man is drawn by a lure. And though seeming to sense the danger he draws closer anyway. The frightening result I leave to your viewing “pleasure.”
What are some of the lures Satan can use to snatch you away? What are some of the ways you can learn to resist the bait that is dangled before you? How have you implemented the plan that the Catechism sets forth? Where have you done well? Where do you need to improve?