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How to recognize and resist temptation? Motus Christi for Youth

By 6 May, 2020No Comments
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Speaking to youth about the Lord’s prayer, Fr.Luis Casasus, the general superior of men’s branch of Idente Missionaries, brought their attention to the temptations of everyday life and the ways to overcome them. He explained how the examples from the life of Jesus illustrated in the Gospel, are still extremely relevant in the life of today’s youth. He reminded them that the devil works continuously to tempt us, taking advantage of every occasion, the good things of the world and of our flesh and the darkest passions. Therefore, we can assume that God helps us permanently to overcome temptation. Youth participated in the online Motus Christi were highly interactive in the sharing session, they shared their personal experiences, asked questions and doubts and thanked Fr.Luis for the clarity and precision with which he spoke about such an important issue.

Here is the full text of Fr.Luis Casasus’s reflection:

Lead us not into Temptation

  1. The meaning of this petition.

In his teaching, Pope Benedict reminds us that God certainly does not literally lead us into temptation. Often, the original languages of Scripture (Hebrew or Greek) have odd ways of saying things, which made sense to them. at the time but could leave us a little puzzled twenty centuries later.

We can understand this by reflecting on the temptations of Jesus before he began his public ministry. He was led out into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. The Letter to the Hebrews emphasizes how we understand the temptations of Jesus: For, because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted (Heb 2: 18). In our case, as sinners, we would say with humor that… we do not need God to lead us into temptation, we can find it on our own.

If we read the story of Job in the Old Testament, we can see him as the great exemplar of patience and endurance in the face of great suffering. In fact, the Book of Job is all about trust in God and his providence in every trial and disappointment that comes our way. It depicts Satan as challenging God to allow misfortune to overwhelm Job, because, as Satan says, his virtue is solely due to his prosperity, which God granted him in abundance. The reaction of Job however, is that God gave him many good things, and he has a right to take them away. Rather than being angry and turning against God, Job sees these trials as a purifying experience leading to a profound oneness with God’s will. Love always involves a process of purifications, renunciations, and painful transformations of ourselves.

The military special forces have some of the toughest training in the world. Some of this training involves holding your breath under water for long periods of time or training in freezing temperatures. Other training includes crawling under fire or on sharp rocks with little clothes on. All these intense trainings are made so soldiers can prove that they have the right stuff and they are capable of defending the homeland. These soldiers are tried and tested. They are prepared for battle.

Therefore, we understand this petition, lead us not into temptation, in the sense of God giving us the grace to recognize and resist temptation. We must realize that our human efforts are not sufficient to face all the temptations surrounding our daily lives. We need divine assistance to lead a holy life and to continue to advance in the perfection he is proposing to us.

God has something positive planned for me, but the devil will come and confuse me and make me doubt. The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The devil is the Tempter. But every time he brings temptations, God turns them into tests. God uses these temptations to test us and make us prove our essence, that we are ready for the spiritual battlefield.

The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation. This petition also requests the grace of vigilance and final perseverance. With this petition we recognize that we will never be tempted or tested beyond our strength, as St. Paul reassures us, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1Cor 10:13).

We know when the Bible speaks of wilderness it means a time of divine discipline. The wilderness is a place and time of preparation. When God took the people of Israel through the wilderness for forty years, it was to prepare them to enter the Promised Land. God has some of us in the wilderness, preparing us for our Promised Land. The wilderness is also a time to strengthen our relationship with God. Both David and Samuel were called while they were young. God used their growing up period to develop strong connections with them. God is strengthening the relationship with us as we grow in grace.

So, Jesus was led by the spirit into the wilderness. Sometimes the Spirit takes us aside to a quiet place to prepare us for what is ahead. While in the wilderness, the devil came and tempted Jesus but God turned it into a test.

We do not ask God to remove temptation from our lives, which would be unreasonable. Rather, we ask for the strength to resist, as Christ did, and our resistance becomes one more way to identify our trials with our Savior’s.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (#2848),”Lead us not into temptation” implies a decision of the heart: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also… No one can serve two masters.” Therefore, it is worth remembering once again that the Lord’s Prayer is a request, but also a commitment, a promise which we make with God the Father. Here we are promising to welcome his help in the face of temptation and to make use of it. We will deal later with this practical and important point.

The most accurate and gospel-like description of original sin I know is: On disobeying the Father, Adam and Eve chose the devil as father. This is what our Founder taught us.

The real problem of the sin we commit after being tempted is not simply that we are drawn to a more or less intense passion, or an attraction to the world or the desires of the flesh. The heart of the problem is that the devil uses the world and the flesh to make us his children.

Does it seem exaggerated? Let us remember the temptations that Jesus suffered. The devil offered him the same thing that a father gives to a son: bread. He also gave him the opportunity to put his power into action, like a father who teaches his little son to walk. And he encouraged him to enter the world as a true king. Isn’t that a father’s wish?

The terrible thing is the price we have to pay. To discover in a dramatic way that we cannot serve two masters. Temptation not only seeks to separate us from God, but, as was explicitly asked of Jesus, to worship the devil.

Let us end this first part with two conclusions about the temptations of Christ:

First, temptation may come to any person, at any time. Jesus had just been baptized. He just heard a voice from Heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and the Spirit like a dove descended upon the Lord Jesus Christ. And now, immediately after the HS, the devil. Some of our greatest temptations will come after some of our highest spiritual experiences, for instance, after professing religious vows, be ordained a priest, attending a spiritual retreat or after performing an act of genuine effort and generosity.

Second, every temptation is made up of, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”

What is the lust of the flesh? that’s the sins that we do with our bodies. our physical appetites and actions, food, sex, liquor, rest, laziness, violence. All of these things are in the body. the lust, the desires of the flesh. Deals primarily with the area of doing.

The lust of the eyes does not deal with doing. Now, our mind and our will lead us to join an infinite number of things: desires, judgments, fantasies, discouragement…it is about possessing and at the same time being possessed. it deals with having.

Then pride of life. That doesn’t deal with doing or having, but it deals with being. Be somebody, have authority, have power, have respect, be famous, get everybody’s attention turned to you. Why do we gossip? The pride of life. Gossip is an attempt to pull somebody down hoping that I will elevate myself above them.

Doing, having, being. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. In different proportions, these are the components of all temptation.

  1. How God really helps us not to fall into temptation.

The devil works continuously to tempt us, taking advantage of every occasion, the good things of the world and of our flesh and the darkest passions. Therefore, we can assume that God helps us permanently to overcome temptation. In this Motus Christi, one of our objectives is to be more aware of what He does to protect us. This is true, and two actions are up to us: to say NO to the propositions of the evil one and to accept the invitation of our heavenly Father, who strives to remind us that we are not alone.

This awareness of being with others changes the way we see everything. The presence of others and their reactions to our behavior, for better or for worse, changes us, gives us a new perspective.

I was at a friend’s house and one of the guests, a rather outgoing lady, knocked down by mistake a wonderful purple ceramic vase. The vase crashed to the floor and shattered. The lady’s instant response was to look around to check others’ reactions to it. This is a quality that we have carried with us almost from infancy and at some point we have all noticed children doing exactly the same thing. We inherently have a strong interest in the response of others to my actions.

Children who are playing, look from time to time at their parents to see if they are still around. When they do something they consider important, such as a new maneuver on the bicycle, they call their grandmother’s attention to receive her congratulations. And if the grandmother, on the other hand, is worried about the risk of the maneuver, the child is also happy, because it has had an impact on someone, the child perceives that he is actively accompanied, by someone who cares about him.

The conclusion is immediate. If in our prayer we see the reality of who we are, God’s children, his heirs, to whom he wants to entrust the tasks of his kingdom, it is very likely that any temptation will not penetrate us, as it happened to Jesus, when he answered the devil by remembering what was written, the plan that our heavenly Father had for Christ and for each one of us.

We will realize that we are not alone. In particular, the angels accompany us, as the Gospel says: Do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven (Mt 18: 10).

Most people don’t talk about the guardian angel these days. Many Christians consider it to be a decorative character, existing only in our imagination and the pious cards of the 19th century, to remind children of God’s will.

Some of us would like to have almost physical evidence of the presence of the angels, but it happens to us like the two little fish in the brief tale:

There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Good morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What is water?”

Our guardian angel is in our thoughts, moving our heart, our feelings, to subtly, more subtly than the devil, but with greater power, get us out of the labyrinths of life. Pope Francis reminded us:

Our angel is not only with us, he also sees God the Father, he is the daily bridge, from the moment we arise to the moment we go to bed. The angel is the daily gateway to transcendence, to the encounter with the Father. The angel helps me to go forward because he looks upon the Father and he knows the way (OCT 2, 2018).

While we need divine help to overcome temptation, He respects our freedom, as He respected the freedom of the angels who abandoned Him and that of Adam and Eve. I cannot say, “lead us not into temptation”, if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted. God the Father changes our heart, only rarely the world we are in, the circumstances around us.

This reminds me of the story of a little boy who desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save to save all his coins, even the smallest ones, until he finally had enough to buy a new 10- speed bike. Each night he asked God to help him save his money. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed: Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike, and please, Lord, don’t let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow.

Sometimes we have to run away from temptation and we each know how this happens in our lives. And at other times, we have to prepare our hearts in advance for the moments when we know that danger awaits us. That is the preventive medicine whose effectiveness does not depend on God, but on my diligence.

Jesus had been doing this for days and nights, so he remembered the teaching of Scripture when he needed it, in the moments of temptation.


Some Points for Personal Reflection.

  1. Can I improve my reflection on the Gospel lessons, so that they can serve me in moments of struggle with the passions?
  2. Do I dedicate any moment of the day to bring to my memory the presence of God and His angels, even if I feel nothing?
  3. Do I realize how the pride of life separates me from God and from my neighbor? That is the essential objective of the devil.
  4. Think of one situation when you overcame the temptation of lust… afterward, did you have experience of strength and peace? That is your Heavenly Father commending you, and guiding you toward Him…
  5. The devil does not want you to reach complete union with your Heavenly Father… so he separates you and with insinuations, brings you to look only at yourself… did you notice that you are downtrodden, and you don’t have energy to talk with people, or be interested in them. Or you have anxiety attacks because yo feel you are alone, and you will be harmed…?
  6. Can you identify your typical temptations, that is the grace your Heavenly Father is giving… Run away as if it were fire, and cling to the opposite virtue, terrain that belongs to Christ (Gal 5:16-22).


Motus Christi May 02, 2020