Beat Temptation – Even if You Can’t Avoid It
[audio will be uploaded as soon as it is recorded}
A Note to the Preaching of Saint John Baptist de La Salle
When you read or listen to what is above, you will notice a few things about the style of the preaching of De La Salle. The first has to do with the style of making three points. This is a common technique used by some writers to provide a sense of order and structure.
The second is to remember what it is that we have already said about the state of the Church and Society during the time of De La Salle. Life is hard for many. When life is hard, there is a desire to hear preaching with clarity, preaching that gives a sense that God is powerful and there is purpose to the sufferings I am experiencing.
For this reason, there will be times that the tone or language may seem odd to us, even jarring. But knowing to whom it is that one is preaching means delivering the homily in ways that can be understood by the listener.
De La Salle’s Homily
So this Sunday we take a break from the Mediations for the Time of Retreat in order to read a meditation written by De La Salle for the First Sunday of Lent. This is actually from Saint John Baptist de la Salle’s Meditations, and not the specific section limited to the Meditations for the Time of Retreat.
And so this a homily for the First Sunday of Lent. As it true every First Sunday of Lent, there is a gospel which recounts the story of Jesus’ forty days in the desert being tempted by Satan. For the homily we have from De La Salle we hear Saint Matthew’s account of the temptation story.
In this homily, De La Salle makes three points. The first is that “This helps us understand that the first step we must take when we wish to give ourselves to God is to leave the world to prepare ourselves to fight this world and all the enemies of our salvation.” The second point is “What ought to induce a soul truly given to God to be always ready to meet temptation.” The third point is “The angel who accompanied young Tobias said to his father, Because you were pleasing to God, it was necessary for you to be tested
The first point
“This helps us understand that the first step we must take when we wish to give ourselves to God is to leave the world to prepare ourselves to fight this world and all the enemies of our salvation.” While there are those who do not like the image of battle when connected to the spiritual life, those that have gone through much suffering in their lives might see this a more apt image.
For De La Salle, what is referred to here is about taking on those things that keep us from God. We know it can be easy to think only of the moment. It can also be tempting to avoid thinking about how it is that the love of God can help us to meet the needs of today. And, it can be the case that the protection God gives us to keep us focused on grace-filled living, avoiding sin, recognizing how it is we need to treat others who are for us the person of Jesus.
The Second Point
“What ought to induce a soul truly given to God to be always ready to meet temptation.” This type of preparation is really about the internal preparation of our hearts and souls. To be tempted is probably one of the most common feelings that unite us.
We are all tempted. We can fall into sin. We are broken. And yet, God still loves us and still cares for us. Even when we sin we do not lose the love God has for us. But there are times for us when we know that we will be tempted. And so it is important, writes de la Salle, for us to notice and prepare for these times.
In today’s language, it might be the case that we would seek to identify “triggers” to our temptation. In previous ages we discussed avoiding the near occasion of sin. However it is phrased, it is important to note that we need to open our hearts to that silent reception of grace that helps us when we are tempted to avoid sin.
The Third Point
“The angel who accompanied young Tobias said to his father, Because you were pleasing to God, it was necessary for you to be tested by temptation.” This is probably the most difficult for us to embrace when we hear with modern ears.
I think the reality is that it might be more important to think of this in a slightly different way. As we get closer to God and experience His deep love for humanity, we will find ourselves more tempted because of the Evil One. We can also find ourselves tempted by those who do not want to follow God’s way.
If Jesus is tempted, then it should not come as a surprise that we will be tempted as well. When we can bring our experience of being tempted before God, and to God, we can discover just how much he really loves. us.
Questions to Ponder
In what ways do you find yourself tempted to sin?
How do you find yourself deepening your relationship with God in order to be prepared to resist temptaiton?
Person can lead us closer to God through their love and support. As you think of the Lasallian value of association, how is it you see yourself becoming closer to God with the help of others?