Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 30, 2017
By Father Peter Richards
Continuing to look at the “Our Father”, let’s focus today on the petition “and lead us not into temptation.”
The first part of this can be puzzling. It might seem to contradict what we know about God, namely that he is all good. If God is all good, he wouldn’t lead any one into temptation. True, in that God doesn’t tempt anyone to do evil. As St. James tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15) On the other hand, God does allow us to be tempted by the world, the flesh and the devil. Having temptations presented to us, and fighting them, helps us grow in humility. When we are faced with the lure or power of temptations, or even give into them, we realize the dark nature of sin, its lousy consequences, our own weaknesses, and our need for God and his goodness and strength. Not that God ever wants us to sin, but in his incredible love and power he is able to bring good out of whatever happens, even our mistakes. As St. Paul tells us, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) The only way I can think of for God to remove all temptations from us in this life, and to keep people from tempting each other, would be to force our wills to choose only good. But God in his great love for us has given us free wills, so this life inevitably will have many temptations come at us.
When we pray, “lead us not into temptation”, among other things, we are praying that God helps us stay humble, so we don’t get overconfident and allow ourselves to get into near occasions of sin, in other words, activities and relationships that may not be sinful in themselves, but make it more likely that we will sin. It also is a prayer that, when we are faced with temptations, we will not trust in our own strength to fight them, but will always ask God for help, and make use of the means he has given us to grow in virtue and fight temptations. Examples of this are the sacraments, God’s Word, asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other saints through the “Hail Mary” and other prayers, fasting, and holding ourselves accountable to other people, such as a close friend or twelve-step and other support groups.
Another way to fight temptation is ask God to help us be content with what we have, as long as our basic needs are met, and to not try to get rich. As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, “If we have food and clothing, with these we should be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6: 8-10) The author of the Book of Proverbs expressed this same truth in a beautiful way when he wrote, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)
Whenever temptations come at us, we have power and resources from God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to say, “no.” As St. Paul encourages us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Have a great week! Fr. Richards