Trials, temptations, obstacles, difficulties, and unexpected events…who of us has ever read a fairy tale, a novel, or an adventure? Pinocchio is tempted by Lucignolo to skip school and visit the Land of Games and there begins his misadventure. Boromir in the Lord of The Rings is attempted to seize the ring of power, gives in, threatens his friend Frodo, and is forced to flee by himself. The wife of Lot, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, is disobedient to the Divine Command and is turned into a statue of salt. A fairy tale, a novel, the Bible; here are three examples (out of many) that show us how temptation has an impact on human life. But what is temptation? We can think of temptation as the charm of evil that draws and seduces us to do something that we should not do.
I still remember when the teacher used to warn me and my classmates: “Don’t play soccer in the hallway!” As soon as the teachers looked the other way, we were back to playing. Why? Because we were children and we liked play? Yes, even this, but mainly because going against a command added to the game something more adventurous, more “courageous”. Now we are adults and we no longer struggle with the temptation to disobey, right? Wrong! We still struggle with temptation but in different ways, age does not matter. Why does evil “attract” us? It is the long history of original sin, that weakness and incapacity that man has inherited, that affects our daily decisions, our behavior, our actions, our thoughts, our discussions, and etc. The greatness of the “Our Father” lies in the fact that it meets this fundamental request of all of us: “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” Evil is apart of reality and we need to ask God to help us to be strong, vigilant, and combative in front of the flattery of sin. We have a merciful Father that takes care of us, but it does not mean that those who pray the “Our Father” do not have any problems, difficulties, or unexpected events in life. It would be too easy! We all know that faith is a journey and it involves fatigue. At times it seems like we are taking one step at a time and at other times we seem to run or fly! This is the mystery of holiness and the mystery of following Jesus (the mystery of Christian life). Trials and temptations are part of this life, but what is important is how we experience/handle them.
I’d like to use the masterpiece of Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”, as an example again. It is as if it were a work of theology put into an adventurous-story form. In the
story, everything rotates around the ring of power, an immense and powerful treasure that must be destroyed before allowing it to fall in the hands of Sauron, the dark antagonist that would subjugate the whole world with it. The originality of the work of Tolkien lies in the fact that the adversaries are not fighting to get the ring, but the good people who want to destroy it. The ring is a symbol of evil and Sauron can be seen as the devil. The other characters must choose which side they want to belong to. The good side includes: Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli, and Legolase. All are free, free to destroy the ring of evil or to become slaves. There is an exhausting battle that involves the created world, and at the end, just when the power of evil seems to have the better end, Providence helps Frodo to destroy for the ring.
Yes, praying and being vigilant, this is the recipe. Being vigilant helps us to discern how each occasion leads us to God or how it leads us away. Is watching this TV show helpful? Is being at the computer all afternoon bringing me closer to God? Is this particular group of friends helping me grow and become a better person? Do I really need to buy a new mobile phone or a new pair of shoes? Do I believe in a naïve way all that the mass media says, especially with regards to religion? Prayer is asking God for help, trusting in him in the moments of weakness/difficulties, and having a relationship of friendship with him. The closer to I am to God the stronger the force inside of me to battle against temptations. Do not leave me alone Jesus, keep me close to you always and let me feel your proximity and your support in the trials of life: pain, suffering, and death. Strengthen us and help us mature and reach holiness, invoking your grace and your love. When we remain in you we are calm and in peace. “Lord, never leave us alone in our weakness, in our trials, and in our temptations. Fight with us, be our strength, our courage, and our hope that leads us to Victory!”
Be vigilant to discern what is leading us towards God and what is not.