The other night we were watching a movie about Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC; we usually just call him, “St. Damian the Leper”. It was a very good movie and the actor playing St. Damian reflected his love for God and the lepers he served, and also his humanity. In one scene, he is being tempted by a young woman.(modest portrayal) In the scene, he initially says “no please leave”.. but then more forcefully, “NO, PLEASE LEAVE”. He clearly recognizes the temptation, his own vulnerably, and takes appropriate action.
If you’ve ever spilled hot coffee on your lap, it’s amazing how quickly you can jump up from the table, utter a few words of exclamation, wipe off your pants and sit back down… “my gosh, I didn’t think you could move so fast”. This isn’t a bad approach when we’re confronted with temptation. While we don’t always need to make a scene, we should do whatever’s necessary to ward it off.
St. Paul reminds us that “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.” (1Cor. 10:13)
So, God will always provide a way to resist temptation…sometimes it’s the deliberate and determined approach of St. Damian, sometimes it’s the hot coffee on the lap of “yikes, get me out of here approach”. Often thru prayer the Holy Spirit shows us how to keep our footsteps from taking us into the “occasions of sin”. We get to know ourselves better and come to realize that I need to stay away from this place, or that show, or this person, or that occupation,… maybe I’m not spiritually strong enough to handle that.
Sometimes we handle all of this very well and efficiently… like Errol Flynn in an old Pirate movie, dispatching the villain with a swish-swish-swish of his sword. Other times we may resemble a boxer having gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson….battered and bruised, yet alive to fight another day.
In all temptations, the Lord is at our side to help us, to encourage us, to train us, to teach us. If we’re successful, we get a “good job and a pat on the head”…. if we’ve fallen, he’s there to pick us up and forgive us and show us what needs to change in our live so we can be successful the next time. Often the Lord is after something deeper in our soul that needs to change before we gain full victory in some of the more visible sins in our life.
A great priest friend and confessor to many, would end every confession with the words, “okay, be encouraged”. So as we end each encounter of temptation, whether resembling a victorious Errol Flynn or a bruised boxer, remember to be encouraged. The Lord is at hand to help us, to make us holy, and to one day bring us to heaven. And that is very good news.