First Sunday in Lent : On the Spiritual Combat
by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893
"Walk as children of light."--Eph. v. 9.
It often happens, my dear brethren, that the devil chooses for his worst attacks upon us the very time when we are trying to draw nearer to God, when we have performed some good work for His honor and glory, or immediately after our conversion. And so, for our encouragement under such circumstances, our Lord permitted the devil to tempt Him immediately after His forty days' fasting in the desert. The methods employed by the tempter are the same that he has used from the beginning, and that he still uses against the children of men; and so from our Lord's example we can meet and overcome the enemy of our souls.
As the devil began by appealing to our Lord's sense of hunger, so with us he appeals to our bodily appetites; for he knows that his strongest ally is our perverted passions, the flesh, that ever lusteth against the spirit. But mark the answer of our Lord: "Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." And so when the devil assails us with evil thoughts or desires, we can give a like answer: "It is not for such things as these that God created me; man was not created simply to eat and drink and gratify his passions. I am something better than a brute. I am made for something higher and nobler, to do the will of God and thus attain to eternal union with Him."
Foiled in the attack, the enemy will perhaps have recourse to a subtler temptation—an appeal to our pride. Even as he asked our Lord to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, so he will say to us: "Be not afraid to cast yourself into the occasions of sin; you are strong in virtue, and God's holy angels will protect you from harm. That immoral book, that evil company, that intoxicating drink cannot hurt you, whatever its effects might be on those who are weak." Answer him in the words of our Lord: "'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' Who am I that I should presume on God's mercy, that I should expect His protection and the assistance of His grace, if I expose myself to the danger of sinning? I will not tempt God by trifling with His grace, foolishly trusting to my own strength."
Lastly, the devil puts before us the advantages of serving him rather than God: "What does God propose to you?" he says: "mortification, penance, humiliation, poverty, suffering, the Cross. 'If any man will come after Me,' says Christ, 'let him take up his cross and follow Me.' But I will give you pleasure, the gratification of all your desires, the fulfilment of worldly ambition, riches, honor, and power. All these things I will give you, if you will but fall down and worship me."
Believe him not, O Christian soul, for he was a liar from the beginning; his promises are but vain and illusory; he will not, he cannot keep them. The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve; for His service you were put into the world, and in that service alone can you find true peace and joy whether here or hereafter.
If, then, we would overcome the tempter, let us prepare for his attacks after the example of our Divine Lord. During this season of Lent let us withdraw with Him into the desert--that is, from the vain pleasures of the world. Let us spend this time in fasting and prayer--fervent, earnest prayer--for strength against temptations. Then, when the tempter comes, we shall be able with God's grace to repel him, as our Lord did, and the trial over, God will send His angels to fill us with heavenly consolation.
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Date d'inscription : 26/02/2009
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