Sunday, 24 October 2021

24 October, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

1. “Let no man say when he is tempted,” St. James warns us, “that he is tempted by God; for God is no tempter to evil, and he himself tempts no one. But everyone is tempted by being drawn away and enticed by his own passion. Then when passion has conceived, it brings forth sin, but when sin has matured, it begets death.” (James 1:13-15)

When we ask God during the Pater Noster not to lead us into temptation, we should really beseech Him to rescue us from temptation. We should not request this in any absolute sense, however, for it would be a poor soldier who would refuse to be tried in battle. Our prayer should be prompted by a holy fear of offending God. We should ask Him, therefore, either to set us free from temptations or to grant us the grace to overcome them. We should then co-operate earnestly with divine grace in resisting these temptations and should adopt the means necessary to overcome them.

In the first place, we should never go voluntarily into an occasion of sin. What use is it asking God to rescue us from temptations if we immediately proceed to go in search of them? When possible, therefore, avoid the occasions of sin. “He who loves danger,” says the Holy Spirit, “will perish in it.” (Ecclus. 3:25) If duty or charity compels us to expose ourselves to danger, God will certainly help us. But if we fail to recognise our own frailty and expose ourselves voluntarily to the risk of committing sin, God is not obliged to work a miracle to save us. Our presumption and imprudence will be severely punished.

2. Life is a prolonged trial. St. Paul compares it to a stadium in which everyone must fight to win. If anyone lays down his arms, he will be unable to conquer his passions or to achieve the palm of victory. “One who enters a contest is not crowned unless he has competed according to the rules.” (2 Tim. 2:5)

With the exception of the Blessed Virgin, every human being is obliged to battle against the temptations of the flesh. Sometimes these can be quite terrifying. St. Paul himself confessed that he felt another law in his members warring against the law of his mind. “Unhappy man that I am!” he exclaimed in supplication to God to come to his assistance. “Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)

The false enchantment and wickedness of the world also threatens to ensnare us. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) It is easy to become absorbed in worldly affairs and to forget the all-important spiritual realities.

Finally, there is the devil, whom St. Peter describes as wandering about “seeking someone to devour. Resist him,” he urges us, “steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same suffering befalls your brethren all over the world.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:9)

Faced as we are with these three foes, we should implore God to help us by His grace. Lead us not into temptation, O God, but help us to conquer these enemies. Without You we can do nothing, but with Your aid anything is possible. Lead us not into temptation.

3. Why, we may ask, does God permit us to be tempted? It is for our own good, because (1) He desires us to co-operate with Him in our own salvation. The crown of glory which is to be our reward will only be given to him who has earned it. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation,” says St. James, “for when he has been tried, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12) (2) He wishes us to understand, moreover, that we can do nothing without Him, so that we may be humble and may pray to Him with faith and perseverance. (3) He desires that we may be vigilant and may live in union with Him by means of prayer. He wishes us to realise that only with His help can we aspire to the supernatural life and triumph over our enemies. Apart from Him we shall be lost, but close to Him we shall be invincible.

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