The first reading all week is from the Letter of James. Today’s “installment” is just one of many insights the letter carries about the human condition: “Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation” (James 1:12).
Temptation: no one wants it, no one can avoid it, and it isn’t going away. When St. Paul refers to the “thorns in his side” (2 Cor 12:7) I think, in part, he is talking about temptation. When Paul asked God to take them away, the answer was simply “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9)
It is funny what people think about temptation. People have asked me, “Why is the Lord testing me?” In Hebrew and Greek, testing and temptation are essentially the same word. The person is asking why the Lord is tempting me as though God was trying to seduce a person into sin. James dispels that idea: “Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)
So what are we to do? Understand that temptation is unwanted, annoying and bothersome – but it is not sin. God’s grace is not only sufficient, it is always there. Let me suggest to you that every temptation comes surrounded by the Grace of God – and you get to choose. And I bet if you kept track you might find that 90% (plus) of the time you chose grace. But part of the human condition is that we are more likely to recall the times we gave into temptation which brought forth sin. We should recall and confess our sin before God. But we should also recall and give thanks to God for the grace that God pours into our lives as the antidote to temptation.
You can pray for God to take away your temptations. Apart from the fact that God did not send it, it means you remain unaware of the temptation’s source. It is within you.
Rather pray for the Wisdom to know the root and home of temptation and the grace to heal that root and home so that temptation no longer dwells there. In the meanwhile “Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation.” (James 1:12)