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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Lent Retreat - FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We all know what temptation is like. We hover over the tin, and wrestle with the idea of having just one more chocolate biscuit. And once in a while, we give in. Then we have a giggle about it later with our friends, who lightly scold us with phrases like ‘a second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’. Being ‘naughty’ about things that are ‘nice’, like chocolate biscuits, isn’t too much of a big deal. But there are also more dramatic temptations, and if we give in to them they can harm us, harm others, and harm our relationship with God. I’m thinking of things like the temptation to infidelity, to dominate and control others, to steal and defraud and so on. These are much harder to giggle away, and can cause us real distress, especially if we give in.

The Desert Fathers had much to say on the subject of temptation. This isn’t surprising since their whole way of life was based on entering the Desert to be tempted, following the example of Jesus that we have heard in today’s Gospel. Their lives might seem like an extreme form of masochism to us, but there’s much we can learn from their experiences.

Let me tell you a story … One day, a distressed young monk went to an old monk to ask his advice. The young man had received a command to go to a particular place and carry out a task. But there was some sort of temptation in that place which frightened him. And so he was torn between avoiding temptation and carrying out his task. The old monk’s advice was simple; ‘go and carry out the task, so that you can overcome the temptation’.

The message of the story is clear. We simply can’t let a fear of temptation overcome us. Whether we’re young students at university, forty somethings with a career and a family, or wise old desert monks, temptations will come our way. And they are an essential part of growth in the Christian life, because they bring our deepest desires to the surface. Facing up to those desires can be painful for us at times. But the self-knowledge that comes through our temptations reveals the areas of our lives which are most in need of healing.

Of course, the desert fathers are as aware of the solution to temptation as they are of the problem. The answer is humility. Our temptations are a welcome reminder that we are limited and weak. It is only by the help of God’s grace that we can be the people that we would like to be, the people that God wants us to be. In today’s Gospel, we see that Jesus is tempted by the Devil to be the big man, the powerful man. He is offered everything that could make him impressive in people’s eyes. But he chooses another way – the path of humility. And so this Lent, let’s take a look at those things which tempt us, and pray for the grace to overcome them. Then we can use this desert season to learn to imitate Jesus - so that his way, the way of humility – becomes our way too.

Robert Gay OP

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