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To Be Unyielding


“Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

We revisit the theme of perseverance in today’s 1st Reading (James 1:12-16) as we continue to plumb the depths of Saint James’ Epistle, picking up precisely where we left off yesterday in fact.

Temptation takes center stage in today’s passage, and James is quick to delineate the origins of this tantalizing hindrance to our salvation. “No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God;’ James explains, “for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.”

Taming our passions and honing our free will, redirecting the latter so as to align it with God’s divine will for our lives during this fleeting time we spend on Earth, requires saying yes to God every day. Satan, who Saint Peter so perfectly described as a “roaring lion who seeks to devour souls,” (1 Peter 5:8) is quickly running out of his prize asset, the primary tool at his disposal with which to snatch souls until Jesus comes again.

That precious asset is of course time. He finds himself staring down the gun barrel of a ticking clock, on the wrong side of the only battle that truly matters, the Battle of the Universe. The Battle for it all. So what does he do in his ratcheted-up state of ravenous depravity? He starts by attacking the family. He tempts those who are struggling in their marriages. Before you know it, adultery is a competitive sport Adultery leads to divorce, which means that yet another family is left in tatters.

Abortion on demand is yet another intrinsically evil weapon he employs to destroy the family unit 62 million abortions since the tragic Rowe vs Wade verdict came down in 1973 serves as grim proof that Satan is a far more formidable foe than many are equipped to take on. “Have nothing to do with the dragon.” This was Pope John Paul II’s stern warning to the flock he resided over for 27 years. For it is Satan Himself, and only Satan Himself, who conjures up all temptation within the human soul.

Sin, mortal sin in particular, is among other things dehumanizing. The more we give way to it, the more it defines us. Ultimately sin can destroy us, binding us to an eternal fate wherein we are chained to the Dragon, the Father of Sin. Forever. As James explains it, “…when sin reaches maturity, it gives birth to death.” (1:15). In reality, the Ten Commandments can be summed up in one commandment: “Thou shall not be a slave.” This is because sin enslaves us. It ruptures our divine connection to God the Father, it demeans us, and it ultimately leads to death. God hates sin not because he is a demanding and cruel taskmaster, God Hayes sin because as His sons and daughters, sin is beneath us. God calls us to far greater things. God calls us to life.

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Goodness, all goodness, is of God, coming down from the “Father of lights” to borrow once again a phrase from James in today’s 1st Reading (1:17). God is shadowless, pure light, free of all guile and deception. This is in stark contrast to Satan, who can only prowl about in the shadowy regions of our doubt, our fear, our self-loathing and our guilt. In today’s Gospel (Mark 8:14-21), Jesus is genuinely annoyed at his Apostles due primarily to their lack of understanding as it relates to who He is and what He has come to do In this exchange with the Twelve, Jesus is not upset because they keep incessantly coming to him with their wants and needs. On the contrary, he is upset because they are not coming to him and relying on him enough for all of their wants and needs.

By invoking the story of the loaves and fishes, Jesus reminds them that He is the Bread of Life. Jesus is reminding them that they have everything they need in Him, but they simply didn’t understand that. So often, the same can be said for us. We are called, qualified, and perfected in Jesus. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Everyone and everything else is secondary.

The battle against temptation will wage on until we breathe our last, of this you can be sure But through perseverance, a vibrant faith in God, and the intercession of the Communion of Saints, we can, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Gain the strength of the temptation we resist.” Through perseverance and understanding, we come to realize that God has so much more in store for us than that which we oftentimes merely accept due to a lack of fortitude, impatience, or simply because we place limitations on God.

Ultimately we must seek to avoid the biggest of all human temptations: To settle for too little.

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” ~ Pope Saint Leo the Great

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