By Fr. Roy Cimagala
TEMPTATIONS will always be around. And we just have to be prepared to deal with them properly. The secret is to learn how to be like Christ precisely at the moment when he himself was tempted three times by the devil. (cfr. Mt 4,1-11)
It’s important that in dealing with this fact of life, we should never lose hope. Instead, we should somehow in a sense welcome it. That’s because temptations are an occasion for us to identify ourselves more tightly with Christ and to make progress in our spiritual life. No virtue is developed and made stronger if no temptations would test us.
Let’s remember that Christ vanquished the tempter for us. (cfr. CCC 540) By contemplating Christ, who allowed himself to be tempted and who triumphed, we can fill ourselves with hope in our constant struggle against temptations and sin. We can manage to have peace of mind and avoid unnecessary stress. With Christ, we know we have the power to resist temptation.
St. Augustine had this wonderful piece of advice: “Recognize yourself tempted in Christ and recognize yourself also a conqueror in Christ.” Now that is the real challenge for us—how we can identify ourselves like Christ when temptations come around. We indeed need a lot of discipline to enable us to achieve that ideal.
We should be constantly aware of the three concupiscences that are the sources of our temptations—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. We should never forget that every day we have to contend with the enemies of God and of our soul—our wounded flesh, the allurements of the world, and the devil himself.
To deal with them properly, we have to imitate Christ in his “prayer, fasting and vigilance.” Through these means, we can expect to be like Christ who never gave an inch to distance himself from the will of the Father.
In fact, he corrected the tempter in his twisted use of some truths, since as is well known, temptations will always make use of some truths and twist them, appealing to our concupiscences to take us away from God. That’s why it is important to really know the truth as revealed to us by God through Christ in the Holy Spirit and taught to us authoritatively by the Church and given witness to by the saints.
What can help us in this regard is to practice what Christ himself advised us: to deny ourselves and to carry his cross. That’s how we can manage to stick to the will of God rather than the will and ways of the tempter. In other words, we have to give our whole heart to God which is what true love is, protecting ourselves from our tendency to fall into self-indulgence. Yes, detachment and temperance are necessary here.
We have to be wary of our tendency to let our ego to take the place of God. We have to be tightly guarded against this danger by always doing things with God and for God, with purity of intention and great eagerness which is the sign of true love. We need to be hot for God, not cold nor lukewarm.
Obviously, we should always feel the need to ask for strength from God from whom all good things come. With that attitude, we can manage to be confident in facing whatever temptations can come our way in this vale of tears we have in this world!