The Battle with Temptation

February 28, 2020

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St. Michael The Archangel, God’s Mighty Warrior (Rev 12:7) Model for confirmands, fully initiated Catholics “a soldier for Christ” St Michael’s Duluth, MN

Lent focuses on sin, evil thoughts, words, and deeds, as well as the good that we have failed to do; and the First Sunday of Lent focuses on temptation, those things that would induce us to sin. Jesus wants us to turn away from sin (see Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15). He also wants us to battle temptation and resist it with all our might.

A temptation is an evil thought that suddenly comes to mind. The temptation makes something bad look desirable, attractive, fun, or rewarding. Typical temptations are to say something unkind about someone else, to strike back and hurt someone who has harmed us, to tell a lie to get out of trouble or make ourselves look better, or to do something sexually impure or immoral.

Temptations come from the devil, not God. God is pure goodness and God detests evil. God wants us to be good and do good. God would never trick us, lead us into harm’s way, or set us up for failure. The devil, on the other hand, is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (see 1 Pt 5:8), constantly on the prowl, the deceiver, the master of lies, who pursues us relentlessly, morning, noon, and night, and places one evil thought after another into our minds. Then, once the temptation is under consideration, the devil tries to make it look acceptable and enjoyable, and then seduces the person to act on the evil impulse.

An evil or impure thought is not automatically a sin. When a temptation appears, at first for the person who receives it, the temptation is morally neutral. No good or evil has been done. The moral quality of a temptation is determined by how the person who receives the temptation deals with it. If the person who receives the temptation and then thinks about it is horrified at thought, finds the temptation objectionable, rejects it, and refuses to act upon it, the person has taken something evil and made it a moral good.

On the other hand, when a temptation appears, instead of rejecting it, the person may hang on to the thought and mull over it. To toy with a temptation is the first stage of a sinful thought. The evil thought becomes progressively more sinful as a person moves from thinking about the evil deed to desiring it, and then from desiring it to making the conscious decision to do it, and then from making the conscious decision to designing a plan to carry it out. The evil thought becomes an evil deed once the temptation is carried out.

At one time when a person received the Sacrament of Confirmation, the fully initiated Christian was called a “soldier for Christ.” The title has fallen into disuse. Many do not like the word “soldier.” They claim that it is too militant and rationalize their position with the assertion that Christianity is about love and service. Do not be fooled. Every person is constantly assaulted by the devil with temptations. Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden. Jesus was tempted in the desert. We are tempted throughout the day and wherever we go. We are engaged in mortal combat. Disciples arm themselves with Christ and his gospel, and with the strength that God supplies, go nose to nose with the devil, fight with great bravery and ferocity, and resist the devil and his allurements with all their might.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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