Insects and flies are lured by the scent of the sweet. Many times they discover that following a sweet scent can lead to a life of imprisonment or worse. Unable to resist the lure of the scent, they crawl far into a flower only to get so steeped in pollen that they cannot get out.
Now, you might be tempted to think that this could never happen to us human beings. We are too smart to fall for something like that. The reality, however, is just the opposite. Like the bees we are lured by the scent of the sweet.
The meaning of temptation is enticing a person to do the wrong. When we think of temptations, our first thoughts think of bad things. However, it is not only evil which can lead us astray but the good can be just as effective. In fact, all temptation disguises itself as good.
It is not only when the path is hard and filled with obstacles that we fail to reach the goal, but also when it is easy and littered with attractions. It is so easy for earthly food to dull the appetite for heavenly food. The Gospels give us several examples.
On one occasion Jesus invited a rich young man to become his disciple, but he refused. It wasn’t evil which caused him to refuse, he had done nothing wrong. It was something good in itself, his money and possessions.
Jesus told a story about guests who refused an invitation to a feast. In refusing they were not acting from bad motives, but from perfectly good ones. One man wanted to inspect a piece of land he had bought. Another wanted to try out some oxen he had bought. And a third was newly married. Though their reasons for not attending the feast were good, the effect was the same for each one — they allowed the feast to pass them by.
In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus said that some of the seed was choked by thorns. What did these “thorns” consist of? The worries and cares of this world and the lure of riches. Again, things not evil in themselves.
So, what do we deduce from all of this? That we may have as much to fear from the good as from the bad. After all, when we see something which is manifestly evil, we are more likely to be repelled than attracted by it. When we see something which is manifestly good, we are likely to be attracted by it.
The things that tempt us to abandon our goal are not always bad. More often than not they are good, and that is what makes it so hard to resist them. The most painful choices at times are between the good and the best.
We must keep in mind that the Devil does not appear as a repulsive character. The Devil appears as an attractive, ingratiating, charming character, even a friend. He appears to have your best interests at heart, as when he offered Jesus bread and all the kingdoms of the world. We need wisdom, strength, and God’s grace, to help us resist temptations, especially those that come under the guise of good.
Pope Francis has often spoke of how the Devil is alive and well and searching for souls. May this Season of Lent find us, through time spent in prayer, acts of penance, and works of charity, resisting the Evil One. May it lead us to Easter joy, knowing that we have remained faithful to our baptismal promises: Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises? I DO!!!
- Fr. Dennis, February 18, 2018