Monday, February 12, 2018

A new look at temptations

In two days we will begin the season of Lent, and so one comment in particular from today’s first reading stands out. As we begin reading the Letter of St. James he tells us to:

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials.

The word he uses for trials can also be translated testing, or temptation. 

Most of us are accustomed to thing of trials and temptations as things. And it is true that we should not go out looking for them. 

On the other hand, St. James tells us that they can have a positive purpose, that we we endure such trials we have the opportunity to delevop perseverance. 

The word for perseverance is hypomena. It literally means to remain under. Imagine standing under a great weight and yet not being weighed down. That is the virtue of perseverance. And every time we are able to face down even the small temptations that we encounter in daily life, we are building up our store of perseverance. 

Perseverance is a virtue we all hope we will never need. But we know that if we live long enough we will all have those moments when we are struck by a surprise that threatens to crush us. We need to be prepared. 

In his letter St. James links faith and perseverance:the first a theological virtue (given to us by God), the second anatural virtue (habit developed though practice).  Togethe they can enable us to face whatever life throws at us. 

As we prepare to enter the season of Lent, we are reminded that being Christian requires more than being nice. It requires intentional practice to shape our lives in the the image of Christ.