Recently, while I was traveling, I visited a restaurant where everything was made from scratch. At the entrance to the dining room was a display of a plethora of cakes, pies and other sweet treats from the Italian and Greek heritage. I could not help but salivate as I walked past the cases. I kept on saying to myself, “Lead me not into temptation!”
We enjoyed our meal and then came another moment of truth when the waitress asked if we wanted dessert. Once again, this time audibly, I declared with a smile, “Lead me not into temptation!” The Sisters with whom I dined ordered dessert. I watched, smiled, and sipped on my coffee as they finished what they both declared, amidst giggles, was “sinfully delicious!” As I sipped and they stated their satisfaction about dessert, again I prayed, “Lead me not into temptation.”
I was reminded of this as I share my reflection on the phrase “lead us not into temptation” found in the Lord’s Prayer.
I always thought it odd that we would pray that God would not to lead us into temptation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it perfectly clear (2846) that God would never lead any of his children to temptation. This is not what this phrase means. “It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both ‘do not allow us to enter into temptation’ and ‘do not let us yield into temptation.’ … [In this phrase] we ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle ‘between flesh and spirit. …’”
We do not engage in this battle without “heavenly” armor. We have four “weapons” to assist us to walk away from temptation. They are: discernment, firmness, vigilance and perseverance.
Discernment – The teacher of discernment is the Holy Spirit. In the midst of temptation, the Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom to understand the difference between trials that are a part of living life and are necessary for our growth as well as true temptation that leads us to sin, separation from God and death. At the same time, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, we must determine between the act of being tempted as well as consenting to the temptation. There should be a constant dialogue between our hearts and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They are like tiny whispers between the center of our heart and the Holy Spirit. Even if one is not aware that this is occurring, they exist!
Firmness – The Catechism calls this a “decision of the heart” (2848). If we would truly open our heart to the working of the Holy Spirit, the Father gives us strength to dismiss the temptation as it truly is – a lie that the Evil One deceives us to think that it is good. How does one tap into the strength so we can see the lie for what it is? Prayer! We are all called to pray every single day. It is through prayer that we deepen our relationship with God, who in turns pours grace into our hearts to successfully wrestle against our temptations.
Vigilance – Temptation is not unique to us mere mortals. Remember, Christ was tempted while he was in the desert. According to Luke’s account of this event, (Lk. 4:13) after the three temptations were complete, the devil left him to “await another opportunity.” In reality, by praying this petition, Christ unites us to his battle, his agony, and, more importantly, his victory. He calls us to “vigilance of the heart.” This means a heart that is truly given to God. Jesus prayed for us to the Father, “Keep them in your name.” By having the name of Jesus on our hearts, on our lips and in our ears, temptations have no strength to harm us.
Perseverance – By praying this petition, we recognize that temptation is a part of the human condition until we die. We persevere by hoping and trusting that God’s mercy and love is greater than any temptation and sin that we face or commit. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us the grace when we do fall under temptation and sin to get up and try again and again.
One might think of these four “weapons” as four tasty treats sitting in a front display case calling out, “Taste me!” Now, armed with these weapons you too can proclaim, “Lead me not into temptation!”
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness