February 14, 2012 - Memorial of Saint Cyril, monk, and Saint Methodius, Bishop

Today's Readings

Temptation comes from three sources. These are traditionally listed as the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Temptation from the world is the temptation of money, fame, and power. The world tempts us with the possibility of controlling other people and having people adore us. The temptation of the world is to be more successful than other people. The temptation of the world is to want to be higher than everyone else. Success is meaningless if we are not more successful than other people. But the Christian denies this temptation. It is illogical. We should be glad that other people are smarter and more talented than us. We are not perfect. The Christian is glad to see success wherever it exists and does not give in to any desire to be better than others.

Temptation of the flesh is the way that our body weighs us down. It is the temptation for entertainment, for relaxation, for eating, for sexual pleasure. Each of these has its proper place, but the body would have us give it constantly. One dessert is not enough. One movie is not enough. If we listen to the body, we will make ourselves unhappy. The body is happiest when we do not give it everything it wants. Give it good food in the proper amount, give it sleep when it is needed and the amount we need, give it exercise even when it is not inclined, and the body will be strong and useful. Give in to the temptations of the flesh and the body will be weak.

Temptation by the Devil is rarer than the others. Only in certain circumstances does the Devil need to get involved. Usually we make a mess of things all by ourselves. When he sees us getting along, trying to follow God, he comes in and steers us toward one of the other temptations. Just as he did with Eve, he makes us believe that God’s laws are unreasonable. He encourages in us the feeling of rebellion: who is God to tell us what to do? Often this question is enough and we are fooled until we realize once again that sin does not have the power to make us happy.

God does not tempt us, but he does give us the power to fight all temptation. He wants us to be happy, and the only things standing in the way of our happiness is our temptation to sin.