Jesus helps us battle temptation
In the desert, Jesus showed the way to fight through trials in our lives
By Marge Vander Steeg
I begin this short reflection on temptation for the First Sunday of Lent as "trials" that we all encounter, often daily. Reading from the book of James, one gets encouragement to persevere when these trials occur. It's the consent we give to a temptation which causes the sinful act. No one is exempt from temptation, not even our Lord. He fought the temptations and remained true to his identity and calling.
We know that God is not doing the tempting. As Christians we must realize God neither intends nor causes pain and suffering. God does not make children suffer, break up marriages and families, or cause economies to fail. God doesn't cause us to lose our homes, jobs, cause illnesses, accidents, and so on. Much of this is people-made.
Therefore, we can and should change! We ourselves are lured into temptations. That is when prayer becomes powerful. God will give you wisdom to do what is right and encourage you in times of trouble and despair. Ask God for a good conscience and a strong faith. We must become childlike by putting our absolute faith and trust in him to overcome temptations.
It's difficult for us to understand how a trial or a temptation can become pure joy. Notice however, when these do occur, we turn to Jesus for help. Our faith becomes stronger. Later, upon reflecting on a particular "trial," we notice how Jesus entered our hearts and lives, and we became stronger in our faith. What a gift we've received!
Think of Peter's denial of Jesus. When he realized what he had done, he asked for God's forgiveness. He must have shared his trial and temptation with many others so that they too could be helped by the power of prayer.
We must express dependence upon God for the ability to resist temptation. Life is quite easy when everything falls into place. Prayers are forgotten. Once the predictable are disrupted, we call on Jesus to straighten out our lives, to make life pleasant again.
Resist those temptations that tell us to "sleep in" on Sunday morning, or to skip Mass on a Saturday evening; to argue continually with your spouse or family, neighbors, and so on; using foul language to get your point across; to self-indulge in too much food and drink; to acquire the wrong set of friends that will lead us into temptation.
Let's remember to respond to another's needs even though it might cause us inconvenience, loss of pleasure, or even pain.
So when we're tempted and we don't know which way to go, turn to the Lord, the answer will be given to you. When the Holy Spirit is in a soul, he communicates himself in one way or another. Let's remember that God really does love each of us personally and permanently. God is a patient and forgiving God, always ready to rescue us as he did our ancestors.
Especially during this Lenten season and always, pray that our Heavenly Father will send his Holy Spirit to guide and protect us. That he may dwell within us always and keep us on the path of holiness. Receive Jesus in Holy Communion often. You will be filled with every good. Our temptations are overcome. Our troubles are turned into joys. It enables us to do good, avoid evil and to become better Christians.
(Vander Steeg is religious education administrator and coordinator at St. Patrick Parish in Green Bay.)