In Times of Temptation

St. Gregory the Great reflected on the struggle with temptation and sin in his great work, Moralia. 
God passionately respects free will, which leaves us open to love, to good works and to temptation. When we are tempted, he always gives us the means to resist it (I Corinthians 10:13).  When we do not resist temptation…

  1. The punishment is that we are allowed to sin. And sin always hurts and damages, even if we don’t feel it at the moment.
  2. If we do fall into sin, the most important thing to do is to repent immediately.  If not, God allows us to feel the pleasure of that sin.  And when something gives us pleasure, it sticks to us.
  3. When we come to that place, it is imperative that we repent, resist and renounce the pleasure.  Pleasure grows and becomes a habit.  The habit becomes a vice that in-habits the soul.  It is like a virus that takes root in us and seeks to make a permanent home there.
  4. If we are reaching this point, it’s vital that we embrace the antidote: mortification.   The root of this word is, literally, “death”.  It refers to a dying to self in some way through self-denial.  Many people engage in mortification by giving up something good during Lent. Folks preparing for surgery or medical tests fast, another form of mortification.

When we’ve surrendered to temptation and allowed the pleasure to set up housekeeping with us, we mortify ourselves by renouncing the illicit good – the pleasure from the sin/habit of sin.  AND we go a step further and deny ourselves licit pleasures, good things we enjoy such as foods, screen time, certain recreational activities. This additional fasting helps us in the process of healing by surrendering to God more deeply in offering him something we enjoy.
Sin always does damage. It is all the more insidious in that sometimes it feels good or seems small and inconsequential. However, it is always a step away from God, and that is a slippery slope.
God gives us the grace to resist sin in times of temptation.
God gives us the grace to reject the pleasure of the sin.
God gives us the grace to see and reject the habit of sin, growing into vice and killing the soul.
God gives us the grace to repent, to turn away from the sin, to exercise self-denial and to be filled with his limitless hope.
If – and only if – we allow him, God always wins.  Even when we push him away, he remains, always ready to rescue us, to heal us and to enable us to resume the journey to joy that only he can give.