Life on earth is a constant
battle! The Word of God warns us that
if we have decided to follow the Lord then we should prepare ourselves for
battle. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
is of course our best example! After 40
days and nights fasting in the desert the devil came to tempt Him in three
ways: to change stones into bread, to bow down before the devil in homage, and
to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple. To none of these did Jesus give consent!
What is temptation? Where do temptations come from? How can we
DEFINITION. “Temptation is a provocation from the devil
to do evil!” The devil invites us,
entices us, tries to seduce us into falling into temptation. The devil cannot force our will but he can
present indecent images in our imagination and it is up to us to reject! Once a priest-confessor asked a penitent
this question: “Did you entertain bad
thoughts?” After prolonged reflection the penitent responded wryly: “I did not
entertain bad thoughts, but they entertained me!” In this case the bad thoughts led to sin
because the young man purposely willed and entertained the bad thoughts!
ORIGIN. God never sends us temptations, but God can
allow temptations. Why? God can allow evil to bring greater good from the
evil! God sends trials bus God never
sends temptations! Where then do
temptations have their origin? THE
DEVIL! Here are some common names for
the devil, both from the Bible as well as from the saints!
Biblical names for the devil! “The Prince of the world”, Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, devil, demon, the
ancient serpent (Gen 3), liar and
murderer from the beginning ( Jn. 8), the dragon(Rev. 12).
Saints have different names to define
the devil. St. Ignatius calls the devil
the enemy of our human nature. St.
Augustine warns us that he is like an angry, furious dog on a chain. If we keep him at bay and remain distant we
are safe, but to never provoke this furious beast. St. Thomas Aquinas defines the devil in
terms of his function: “He is the
tempter!” St Peter in one of his
letters calls our attention to the devil as being like a roaring lion ready to
devour us! St Martin of Tours paints
the devil as a blood-thirsty brute!
St Ignatius of Loyola in the
Spiritual Exercises insists that those who do the Exercises for a month carry
out an Exercise called the “Two Standards”.
The 1st Standard is Jesus and the 2nd is that of
Satan. The grace or fruit to be begged
for in this Spiritual Exercise, that should be done four times, is intellectual
knowledge of the ways that the devil tempts us individually. In other words we all have a weak-point, a
“Kryptonite”, an “Achilles Heel” where the devil aims to shoot for the kill! Being soldiers for Christ we must be aware of
the tactics and the strategy of the devil, or in the words of St Ignatius, “the
enemy of our human nature.” Therefore,
being soldiers of Christ in the fierce battle for the salvation of our immortal soul and the souls of so many
others that are walking close to the precipice of hell, we must have a game
plan against the wiles and astute strategies of the devil!
SUPREME POWER OF GOD! Indeed the devil is cunning, crafty,
insidious, and malicious in intent and purpose.
However, we must never forget that God is All-powerful. The devil is a mere-creature and his power is
limited to God’s permissive will! Never
subordinate God to the person of the devil!
COMBAT-TIME! While on earth we are perpetually in a state
of battle! The devil, the flesh and the
world can draw us into sin in all times and circumstances. Indolent, sleepy, naïve, soldiers are any
easy prey to the attacks of the devil.
VIGILANCE! That means that our conscious and perpetual
state must be that of vigilance, a state of alert! Jesus admonishes us with these words: “Stay awake and pray, for you do not know the
hour! The spirit is willing but the
flesh is weak!” Due to lack of vigilance,
the Apostles failed our Lord Jesus. Sleep, sadness and desolation overcame
them--- and also lack of vigilance!
Temptation conquered them!
PRAYER! Constant, fervent and confident! Jesus told the Apostles to pray but they
preferred their comfort and sleep. How often have we fallen into the
“Garden-ease complex” of the Apostles, in which we have fallen asleep during
our prayer time! If done, we are an easy
prey for the devil!
PENANCE! Jesus clearly stated that some devils can be
expelled only through prayer and fasting (or penance). The Acts of the Apostles describes Jesus as
first doing and then preaching. Jesus
preached fasting, but he first gave eloquent witness to it by fasting for forty
days and forty nights. Then He conquered
the devil with all of his temptations! Lazy, sensual, sleepy and distracted
followers of Christ can easily be tackled and defeated!
SELF-KNOWLEDGE! St. Ignatius of Loyola gave to the church
the Rules for discernment of how to receive the inspirations from the good
spirit but also on how to reject the bad inspirations—temptations—from the
devil. In Rule 14 of the 1st
week of discernment, Ignatius presents the devil in the image of a soldier that
circles a castle looking for a crack, crevice, opening, so that he can
enter, penetrate plunder and
abscond with the possessions! The castle is an image of our soul and the
devil, studying us and discovering our “Kryptonite” (our fatal flaw or
weak-point) goes for the kill! In other
words, we must beg for the grace of self-knowledge to really know where we are
most vulnerable so that we can put up the barriers and shield against the fiery
arrows of the enemy!
KNOW YOUR PHYSICAL STATE! When we are tired, frustrated, run-down,
exhausted, then this physical state is often an open door to the attacks of the
enemy! Get a good night’s rest and then
up and ready for another day of Spiritual Combat!
DESOLATION! Universal and across the board is this
reality: when you are in a state of desolation
that is the prime time and prime target of the devil! What is a state of desolation? According to St Ignatius desolation can be
described as darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, and inclination to what is
low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations
which lead to want of faith, hope and love.
The soul is wholly slothful. Tepid, sad, and separated, as it were,
from, its Creator and Lord… (Rule 4 of Rules for Discernment, Spiritual
Exercises of St Ignatius). Therefore, in a state of desolation one must use
double vigilance. Ignatius says we should pray, meditate, examine our conscience
more thoroughly and apply ourselves to some suitable penance so as to conquer
the enemy. (Rule 6).
AGERE CONTRA/ Fight to do the opposite of the
temptation. Ignatius gives us more advice when we are found in the midst of the
storms of temptations! Do the opposite
of what the devil is telling you in temptation. If tempted to eat too much,
practice mortification. If temtped to be lazy, get up five minutes earlier. If
tempted to be sharp with the tongue, then be kind in speech. If tempted to
shorten your prayer period, then pray two extra minutes. Indeed this is Spiritual warfare at its best!
10.OUR LADY HELP OF
CHRISTIANS/ OUR LADY OF VICTORY! The
devil has a mortal fear of two names attached to two persons: THE HOLY NAME OF
JESUS AND MARY!!! After the fall of Adam
and Eve, the Lord promised victory through the seed of the woman and that the
heel of the woman would eventually crush the ugly head of the serpent (the
devil). At the mere mention of the Holy
Name of Mary all hell shakes with fear!
Therefore, never forget that in the heat of the battle against
temptations to call on the Holy and powerful name of Mary. “Never was it known that anyone who called on
her or invoked her name was left unaided…”
(The Memorare of St Bernard)