I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.
“And lead us not into temptation…”
This may seem like a strange request of Our Father in Heaven. After all, He is not the tempter. Satan is the one who tempts us to damnation. So why do we ask Him to not lead us into temptation.I think a clarification is necessary here. Liturgically, we use the phrase “lead us not into temptation.” But if you go to your Bible and if it has as a good translation, like the New American Bible, it will say instead “do not subject us to the final test.” (Matt 6:13)
What is this final test?
In all likelihood, the Jewish people of the time expected a series of cataclysms that would befall humanity at the same time as the coming of the Messiah. This appears to be a prayer to be spared such catastrophes. But there is also another way to look at it in keeping with the liturgical translation.None of us can fully escape temptation in this world. No matter what vice we harbor, there are instigations and opportunities at every turn to give in to these elements of our darker nature. We are sometimes beset on all sides.
You understand that strange phenomenon on Friday’s in Lent when it seems like everyone else is enjoying steak and ribs but you. Or perhaps you struggle with your anger and that co-worker who annoys you cleared their throat for the hundredth time, even though you asked them not to. Or maybe you struggle with chastity even when you go to Church, the summer outfits of the parishioner’s draw your eye and spark unwholesome thoughts.
If you are someone who cannot relate to the above, then this article is not for you. I am a weak, sinful man speaking to other weak and sinful people.
And when we ask God to “Lead us not into temptation” or to “not subject us to the test,” we are also asking God to spare us from temptation.
To be clear, temptation itself is not a sin. Christ Himself was tempted in the desert before He began preaching. We may have unnatural appetites to excess of good things like food and pleasure or appetites to bad things like envy and lust. But the appetite itself is not a sin. You may feel a strong urge towards something you know you should not do. Feeling the urge does not make you sinful, even though Satan whispers in your ear that you are no good because you desire these things. I believe this is the case for those who struggle with pornography. Engaging with pornography is a sin. But when the person struggles against it, even in the struggle they feel dirty and shameful as if they were engaged in the sin already.
Those appetites for sinful things are not the sins themselves. However, that does not mean that they are tolerable or good in the soul. Every effort should be made to remove those appetites. If I struggle with an appetite for gossip, I must cease the sin of gossip. But I must also through inward prayer and mental exercise work to remove the desire for gossip. For many of us, this is the spiritual work of a lifetime and may only be complete in the cleansing fires of Purgatory.
But those bad appetites in the soul can be removed. How do we do it?
You can read the entire article here.