Do Not Cheapen Religion: Discover God for Who He is: Homily for Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Do Not Cheapen Religion
Today’s homily is a follow up to the ways that sometimes we focus on the external aspects of religion, and not on the internal conversion that needs to be part of our relationship with Jesus. It can be the case that we focus too much on the external because that is easier. (Listen to our other homilies.)
Going Behind the Word
In Going Behind the Word we take the time to explore the connection between the first reading from the letter of James about God not tempting us, and the Our Father where we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”
Lead us not into temptation
“No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.” This line from today’s first reading is one that is absolutely true. Yet why is it we ask God then to “lead us not into temptation”?
You may have heard a little something about this line in the Our Father because the translation of this line in other languages was updated by the pope not too long ago. In the Italian translation of the prayer, the phrase “lead us not into temptation” was changed to “do not let us fall into temptation.”
Of course the challenge is that the prayer is such that it is a translation from another language. Even the phrases mentioned above are translated from the Italian. It is not always easy to translate. In fact, we even have the expression that refers to misunderstandings when something “gets lost in translation.”
So in light of the letter to James, what do we mean when we ask God not to lead us into temptation if it is the case that God “himself tempts no one”. If this is true (and it is) then why is it we would need to ask God to lead us not into temptation?
So what does the Our Father mean?
So let’s try to unpack how the Our Father, the text of which comes to us from the gospel can be reconciled with the letter of James about temptation. When we explore the Our Father, it becomes clearer what we mean when we pray that prayer.
In the first sense, the word εἰσενέγκῃς (eisenenkēs)is the Greek word which is usually translated lead. And so in most English bible translations the word is translated as “lead” as in “lead us not into temptation.” The challenge is not the word “lead”, but how it is we understand the word “temptation.”
The Greek word that is used for “temptation”, πειρασμόν (peirasmon), can mean things other than temptation. Perhaps most importantly, it can mean trial. For example, it can be translated as “the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy.” Seen not so much as a temptation to do evil, but rather as a trial, the meaning is subtly, but significantly different.
Seen then as “a trial, of ethical purpose and effect, whether good or evil”, it is not as difficult to see how a trial we experience can actually help us. At other times, such as in 1 Peter 4:12, it refers to the trail of persecution. It is also the case that God can rescue us from trial, too.
If we view the word temptation in this way, what we are asking God to do is to keep us from experiencing trials. This becomes even more obvious when we consider the phrase “but deliver us from evil”. What we are asking God, then, it to keep us from experiencing the evil of a trial.
Life is full of trials
All of us realize life is full of all sorts of trials. There is violence, and sickness, broken relationships, poverty and more. And of course there is the ultimate trial we can experience when tempted by Satan. This trial is not only what we experience day in and day out, but it is also something we experience ultimately when making our choice to belong to God.
And it is from all of these things, then, we are asking God to keep us from these trials. We are asking God to keep us from the trials of life, and we are asking God to keep us safe from the evil one. For it can be the case that these day to day trials, small and great, can very well tempt us to turn our back on God and sin. So remember, when we ask God not to lead us into temptation, we are really asking God to protect us from the trials that could tempt us to turn away from God.