Our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to "lead" us into temptation. But God never leads us into temptation: "God cannot be tempted
by evil and he himself tempts no one". Neither does God impose the good; he wants free beings. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way
we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us. Cf. (CCC 2846)
As we enter into what has been described as a heatwave, to coincide with a time of relaxation for parents and children
when holidays from work and school begin in earnest, we once again consider the consequences - or not - of being freed from the shackles, to get out from under the thumb of oppression and let our collective hair down for a short period of freedom in our lives.
How do parents, and parents and children, actually cope with the necessity to exercise restraint from temptation, at a time when most of us just simply want to 'be free' to relax and, yes, enjoy ourselves?
battle between Flesh and Spirit
The preceeding paragraphs have touched on themes which we have explored before - temptation, free will, and the inner strength to do good. God wants to set us free from evil. As humans, we are truly engaged
in the battle "between flesh and spirit". Yet, by gifting us free will, God will not shield us from temptation per se. Clearly he does not wish us to succumb to the ways of evil. Rather, through the Holy Spirit, He has given us the qualities to discern
between being tempted and consenting to temptation. The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death.Cf. (CCC 2847)
We are aware from the Old Testament
story about Sodom and Gomorrah, of the consequences of unbridled temptation. It is not a new phenomenon. This battle between flesh and spirit commences with our birth. As humans, we are only too aware, especially in later years, of the tremendous and sometimes
calamitous changes in our mortal coil. We appear to be constantly striving for something called maturity in our lives, which unfortunately can appear to develop simultaneously with a gradual disintegration of our once strong, beautiful bodies !
we were children though, we didn't concern ourselves with dentures and replacement hips. Our parents protected us as best they could, depending on their personal circumstances. Yet, at some stage we were exposed to the big, wide world and all the strange and
wonderful, and not so wonderful sights that that entailed. Even under supervision, we learned what it was like to 'be on your own'.
Our Catholic upbringing guaranteed a continuous nourishment of our souls, through the gifts of Baptism, First Confession,
First Communion and Confirmation, interspersed with regular mass attendance. At the latter, we received constant reminders of the difference between good and evil, and what God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit desired us to do.
As we learned, though, we
sometimes learned the hard way. That much-maligned period of our lives known as the teenage years comes in for a lot of attention, generating some interesting memories; especially at this time of the year. We have already read locally of an interesting, impromptu
beach party held by junior cert students and the resultant clean-up which went on for days. Some of us may have been requested to buy liquor in an off-licence, by teenagers who did not know us 'from Adam', and wondered afterwards what was it that drew them
to us for assistance. What parent hasn't wrestled with worries and doubts over Flesh and Spirit festivals, under-age discos and sleep-overs, while coping with soaring temperatures and raging hormones. P.S. Don't forget the debs ball.
is on. And, thankfully, there are still young children, and indeed adults, who are inspired to whip out rackets and do forearms smashes and two-handed backhands on the roads and greens outside our houses, for the next two weeks. And before and after that,
the same children or their friends will engage in regular games of soccer on the same stretch of grass and tarmac. With these lovely temperatures in their twenties, the beaches will draw large crowds. Yes, there will be lots of temptations there but succumbing
to an occasional '99', a burger and chips or a ride on the dodgems seems harmless, compared to the dreadful alternatives.
In a side-bar to the above, it is comforting to read about the punishment meted out to athletes who are 'caught' using illegal
substances, to 'boost' their performances in all well-known sports. They are inevitably punished for 'cheating', for gaining an unfair advantage over their competitors. Hopefully, their punsihment concentrates their minds on the impact on their health, too.
It is possible to have a great time during Summer during these long, wonderful days. You can run free along a beach or though a field, have endless games with your friends, swim or splash around in the sea, enjoy good food at picnics and barbecues or while
dining out. You can go shopping, watch the latest blockbuster in the cinema, travel abroad.
While families play together, there is surely hope that their collective and supportive spirits - and I'm thinking here of the role played by grandparents too
- will ward off the worst aspects of temptation.
Inevitably, though, some if not all parents will be told by some if not all their children one day, that they have no interest in family holidays anymore, and that, this year, they are heading to Ibiza.
Yes, the horrors that that word conjures up for worried mothers and fathers. And as if it wasn't enough to have nightmares about the scenarios, they have just simply being confirmed by regular, televised programmes on the debauched behaviours of teenagers
and young adults eagerly succumbing to the 'sins of the flesh'.
An alliance of Flesh and Spirit
Why should there be some demanding rite of passage, some necessity to dare us on to do deeds,
some forbidden act to be experienced in order that we may learn? Why that element of battle or conflict?
Enough people, it seems, somehow manage to survive those turbulent younger, tempting years, and through marriage (or partnership) forge relationships,
which they work on through discipline, and aided by funds from jobs or careers achieved through learning and/or influence, succeed in creating families of their own - the CSO confirms this. Enough people exist to lend sympathy and support to the survivors
and relations, after natural and man-made disasters, to generate a spirit to survive. But wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't have to suffer temptation, or disasters to bring out the best in us?
Pope Francis, in his morning meditation in the chapel
of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, on the 9th April 2013, spoke about the enemies of gentleness. While specifically referring to the 'daily events' of gossip, or the 'temptations of the Evil One', he said that conflicts always exist in the family, the neighbourhood,
even among friends. When we are born, the Holy Spirit makes us gentle and kind, but, in the holy father's words, the Evil One 'does not want the Spirit to create this gentleness...' Pope Francis required us to 'ask the Lord to show us and the world the beauty
and fullness of this new life, of being born of the Spirit, of treating each other with kindness, with respect.'
Yes, a gentle soul will have no need to do battle with his or her body, or indeed any other individual. Instead, there will be an alliance
of the flesh and the spirit and a firm but gentle rebuttal to temptation.
This month let us keep all young people in our prayers that God's will may be done in them and that they will be safe and enjoy their summer break.