During the Civil War it was illegal to trade in cotton. Nevertheless, many greedy dealers tried to buy cotton in the South, run it through the Union lines, and sell it at great profit in the North. One of these profiteers approached the captain of a Mississippi steamboat and offered him $100 if he would run his cotton up the river. The captain refused, reminding the cotton merchant that it was against the law.
"I will give you $500," said the speculator.
"No," thundered the captain.
"I will give you $1000," declared the dealer.
"No," the captain repeated.
"I'll give you $3,000," the merchant insisted.
At that offer the captain drew out his pistol, pointed it at his tempter, and shouted: "Get off this boat. You are coming too near my price."
That captain knew how to deal with temptation. Leave the tempter, or make the tempter leave you - that is the way to deal with temptation. That is the way Christ dealt with the evil one. Listen to our Lord as He tells the tempter: "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." And in the Gospel of St Matthew, our Lord commands, "Begone, Satan!" (Matt 4:10).
Think of this whenever you pray the words taught us by Jesus Himself, those important words of the Our Father:
"Lead us not into temptation."God cannot and will not directly tempt us to sin. "Let no man say when he is tempted, that he is tempted by God," St. James, 1:13.
But the Lord does permit temptation: to try us, to punish us, and to help us merit for heaven. What, then, do we mean when we ask the Lord to "lead us not into temptation"?
We ask God:
1. To restrain the power of temptation. We ask the Lord to temper the temptation to our powers, aided by grace. As St. Paul tells us:In this petition of the Our Father we also ask for the grace"God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able2. We ask the Lord to deliver us from extraordinary and severe enticements to evil.
to bear it." 1 Cor 10:13.
3. We ask Him for strength to resist, to overcome, to dismiss whatever may lead us into sin.
4. We beg Him to send His angels and saints to our assistance.
1. To distrust ourselves and our own abilities. It is an admission that of ourselves we can do nothing.Just what is meant by temptation? It means whatever may lead us into sin: whatever person, whatever place, whatever circumstance or environment that led us into sin in the past, and might lead us into sin now. In itself temptation is not sinful. Only when consented to does the enticement to evil become evil. Of course, it is sinful to place oneself in the occasions of sin.
2. To avoid the occasions of sin. How often we know the persons and places and causes of sin, but we do not have the power to stay away from them. God will give you that power.
3. To trust in God alone. Friends and education and improved environment may help, but the only aid that really resists temptation is the help of God.
There are two principal kinds of temptation:
1. Internal, which arises from
A. Our natural inclinations, like pride and laziness.2. External, which arise from
B. Our uncontrolled desires, especially the desire for sexual pleasure.
C. Bad habits and sins of the past.
A. The devil, who even dared to tempt Jesus Himself, as we see in the Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent.God permits temptation for various reasons:"Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter,5:8.Pray that this someone be not you.
B. The world, with its false standards and inviting attractions, with its bad company, bad example, shows and books, with its human respect which pays more attention to what people may think than to what God thinks of it.
C. The duties of our state in life, the obligations, for example, of parents
to their children, of those in power to those in their charge.
D. Circumstances of life, like bad health, poverty, and unhappy home life.
1. To show and prove our own weakness on the one hand, and the power of grace or divine help on the other.Against temptation we have many weapons:
2. To humble us and to make us understanding and compassionate toward others.
3. To strengthen virtue, as the storm strengthens the oak tree.
4. To enrich us. Every temptation overcome means further merit, and further reward.
5. To atone for past sins, which often cause new temptations.
1. Prayer and spiritual thought.That is what the steamboat captain did; he drove away the man who was tempting him to break the law by hauling cotton up North. That is what Christ did when the devil tried to lead Him into sin.
2. Humility and mortification.
3. Keeping busy and cheerful.
4. Making known our conscience frankly to our confessor.
5. Avoiding the occasions.
6. Prompt driving away of the tempter.
Learn from Jesus to say sincerely and promptly: "Begone, Satan!" Amen.
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)