Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, February 22, 2015
1st Sunday of Lent, Cycle B
Sacred Heart Catholic Church


Anticipating Temptations: Kill Them at the Very Start


   Our Lord went into the desert, today’s Gospel says, and was tempted. Unlike us, he overcame every temptation thrown at him. Therefore, today is a good occasion to think about temptation, especially as it is Lent, a time to put extra effort into our own daily conversion.

   Our Lord once told a parable, in which he said that if a man knew when the thief would break into his house, he would be awake waiting for him. He used that parable, surprisingly, referring to himself as the thief who might come at any hour, and so exhorted his followers to be alert and pay attention, to avoid falling asleep spiritually, to be ready at every moment. But let us take that advice to heart also when it comes to temptation, to be vigilant. For temptations do try to sneak up on us and ambush us when we’re least expecting; if only we were ready for the battle, we’d be much more effective in dealing with them.

   One writer once said, “The best way to get rid of a temptation is to give in to it.” I don’t recommend that as an “effective” way of “dealing with temptations.” What I recommend is conquering them. So let’s look at a few temptations, so that, rather than being ambushed, we can ambush the ambusher and avoid falling into sin. Like a northern wind foretells cold weather, a southern wind warm weather, and big clouds on the horizon foretell precipitation, temptation gives its own signs and warnings.

   Let us take for example the continual fights and bickering that happen among family members. Such things don’t just come out of the blue. Things lead up to them. When a spouse or sibling gets very possessive about something, he is certainly laying the foundations for conflict. When one never takes responsibility for his or her own failings, is always eager to point out another’s defects, and is always ready to say, “It’s all your fault,” he is laying the foundations for conflict.

   Another predecessor to temptation, which we too often ignore, is our own bad moods. Sometimes a person can feel sad, irritable, uncomfortable, frustrated, stressed out, under slept, grumpy or even just plain hungry. In those moments, we aren’t at our best, and the demons know it. They double up on their efforts, because our will to be strong and heroic is at its lowest ebb. Souls in these bad states are highly exposed to many sins, and in particular, sins of despair, of impurity and of anger. Addressing those bad moods is a very helpful, natural means to fortify ourselves against temptation. We’re Christians; we should be joyful, and sometimes to be joyful we have to deny ourselves, crucify those bad moods, and not give in. Getting sufficient sleep, eating a healthy diet, getting moderate exercise, spending a moderate amount of time cultivating friendships, having some moments of leisure to read and pursue hobbies – these simple means can be very effective to arrest those first, subtle stirrings towards sin. If we don’t satisfy these healthy, balanced and natural inclinations towards a normal lifestyle and decent rest for body and soul, nature will often demand this rest in the form of very unnatural release, in other words, in sin.

   The worst of all the sins is pride. By pride we think ourselves higher than others, that everyone else is wrong, we only think of ourselves, and we magnify ourselves in our own eyes. This sin, however, while it is the worst, is by far the most common, and can lead to every other sin, including greed and the sins of the flesh. The difficulty of pride is that, unlike any other sin, it always wants to look like it is what it is not. Do if I walk up to you, and look you square in the eye, and say, “You’re a proud, arrogant person,” would you get angry and insist it isn’t true? If so, that’s a sign that it is not only true, it is very true. Would you want to say, “Oh yeah, who are you to say that? You’re far more proud than I am!”, then you would further confirm your pride, for pride strives to rise ourselves up in quality above our neighbor.

   Many of you know I am a very amateur bow hunter. I always like to remind people of the vision of Peter in Acts 10, where Jesus told him, “Kill and eat” (10:13, 11:7). Now, while hunting, man is challenged by nature’s most sensitive eyes, noses and ears. So when I hunt, I have to do everything to look like I am not what I am. I have to smell like apples, acorns or just plain like nothing; I have to look like a bush or a shadow; I have to sound like anything, it must be like an animal my game wishes to eat or unite with. But in all cases, I must not look or sound or smell like a hunter, for I am deadly to that game I seek!

   This is like pride. It must look like anything, but at all costs it must not look like pride, for it wants to kill you. It’s not a question of whether you’re proud, it’s only a question of how and in what degree. Be not afraid to confront your own pride, together with all your other sins. Jesus knows you have all these defects, you’re not going to fool him; but neither will he reject you because of your spiritual sicknesses. Indeed, because of them he has such immense love and pity for you, he longs for you to go to him to be healed.

   So today’s lesson is, let us have our eyes peeled to confront the many temptations that may afflict us in life. If we cut off the temptation, we’ll avoid the sin. It’s easier to stop the temptation early, if the temptation continues, and grows, and we flirt with it, it will be very hard to resist it in the end.

   May Jesus the Lord, and Mary his holy Mother, through her powerful intercession, spare us from all sin and temptation. Amen.


















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