On temptation

On temptation

The saints know more about temptation than you and me. Well, they know more than me, anyway.

It seems a little counter-intuitive at first. Shouldn’t good people know less about temptation? But of course, as soon as you consider the matter, it becomes clear that the very opposite is true. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.

As C.S. Lewis noted:

A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.

Maybe it’s no accident that the temptation of Jesus features so early in the Lenten season. Four days in, and many of us have already fallen; we’ve already broken our Lenten discipline.

This isn’t all bad. A lapse in our fast can foster humility, which is “the reason for the season.” More importantly, a fall is an occasion to “begin again,” which is the great secret of sanctity. The more practice we have “beginning again,” the holier we become.

We might see that Jesus resisted temptation, and become discouraged that we are not so strong. But that’s the point! We’re not Jesus. We’re not perfect. We need a Messiah.

Maybe, even as we pray to be delivered from temptation, we should also be grateful for temptations. They can increase our dependency on the Lord.

In the words of St Paul, “when we are weak, God is strong.”

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