Tuesday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time
Everyone is put to the test by being attracted and seduced by that person’s own wrong desire.
I had signed up for CER (Conversion Experience Retreat) in 2018. The morning of the retreat, as I was getting ready to head to the Catholic Spirituality Center, I wondered which group I would be placed in. I had an idea that the groups were named after the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I jokingly thought to myself: “Hmm, maybe Patience, because I don’t have any at all! Ha ha ha…”. Guess what? Yep. Group ‘Patience’ it is. Ah, at least I can say I know myself almost as well as God knows me.
Motherhood has certainly revealed a lot about myself to me, and perhaps to other people, to some extent. I don’t mean the cliched bits about growing into my role etc, but about revealing certain characteristics of mine that can become weaknesses, and the sins I am most prone to, that have always been there right beneath the surface. If my friends were questioned, I have every confidence they will use words like cool, calm, composed, quiet, relaxed, to describe me. I would too, until I had children. I suppose my (lack of) patience has never been tested before and apparently, my hidden talent is rage-screaming.
Anyone can give in to fears and uncertainties and let their weaknesses take over, thus letting sin rear its ugly head. I’m not presuming anybody’s guilt. I’m saying that it is human nature to be tempted by the easy way out, the comfortable option, the selfish option. This is what the temptation is and according to the reading from James, this temptation is not from God, i.e., it is NOT “God is testing me”, but the evil one luring us away with promises of ease and comfort. In the Harry Potter stories, the evil entities prey on fears and insecurities to try and weaken the protagonists and terrify them into submission and retreat, and to lure them into death. This motif is not confined to the fantasy genre, but in real life too. The Evil One knows our weaknesses and uses it against us to draw us away.
Draw us away from what exactly? Why, our vocations, of course! What God has put us here to do is not going to be easy. We need certain strengths and graces to do what we are asked to do. It is normal to have weaknesses and fears, and it is easy to give in to them. It is easy to be tempted by material comforts that we are naturally inclined towards. Take a few minutes to think about the times we have decided against doing something that should be good for us or good for someone else. Because we were tired or we were too busy. Were we truly tired and busy? Or were we simply finding excuses to get out of doing it? More gravely, think about the times we gave in to our disordered desires, and caused harm to ourselves, or worse, to other people? At this point, it is obvious enough that we have done the Devil’s work; we have been lured away and have fallen into sin, and dragged others down with us.
While the lure of Satan is strong, it is vitally important to learn to fight it off. It is vital for the sake of our own inner life, our own spiritual growth. The condition of our inner, spiritual lives will affect how we go about succeeding or failing in our God given roles, and also decides if we help or harm others.
Each time we deny ourselves, each time we listen to the prompting of God, each time we do what He asks of us, we grow. While we ourselves may not detect any change in our spiritual state, it may be more obvious to other people — when they tell you you have become more gentle, more patient, kinder, etc, then they have seen the fruits of the Spirit from you. Likewise, if you see any such change in your friends, do affirm them — we could all use a little encouragement.
Now, how do we persevere in doing what God asks of us, and how do we fight off temptation, which is in our very own natures? Well, honestly, we cannot. Let me go off on a tangent and relate a little exchange I had with my husband. I had wondered how our Archbishop managed to write such good scripture reflections every single day, in addition to all the other things he does. My husband simply replied, “He doesn’t rely on his own strength. You cannot rely on your own strength”. There you go. We rely on God for strength and the graces we need. Alice von Hildebrand passed away early this year. I had only heard of her in passing and never knew who she was or what she did. My social media feed was now full of quotes from her, among other things. This one popped up in a very timely manner: “to be conscious of one’s weakness and to trust in God’s help is the way to authentic strength and victory.”
We all have weaknesses and we are all prone to sin. Such is mankind’s fallen nature. We are in an endless fight against evil and temptation, a fight that happens precisely because we are prone to sin. Fighting our natures is difficult, but we are not doing this alone. This is a key aspect to remember in our battle against temptation and our fight against Satan. We can find strength in God to overcome this, to get up and try again when we fail, but we must remember to constantly listen for His soft prompting over the noises of the Evil One. With God as our strength and our shield, we can then say, “Not today, Satan!”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)
Prayer: My God, help us to remember that we are your beloved children, and You want the best for us always. Help us to remember that we can do all things through You. Help us to listen to Your word. Help us to keep our hearts pure, so that we may do your will.
Thanksgiving: Father, we thank You for your unending Love for us. We thank You for your patience, despite our shortcomings. We thank you for the strength and graces You have given us.