Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done,
On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those
Who Have Trespassed Against Us. Lead Us Not Into Temptation…
The adult-only, clothing-optional Temptation Resort and Spa in Cancun “dares” you to be tempted and “promises” to deliver the “romantic side of temptation” in the “seductive, luxurious and delicious entertainment” one can find at the “sexy, fun, all-inclusive” vacation experience. While none of us virtue-practicing, family-defending Catholics would remotely suggest that such a dare or promise is acceptable (collective gasp!), to those unfortunate folks un-skilled in the practice of virtue and self-control, those who don’t understand why being led into temptation is dangerous, such vivid imagery is intended to make vice seem like something it isn’t — the beautiful good. Temptation is based on lies and distortion. The resort wouldn’t get as many visitors if it advertised more honestly as a place that “dares” you to be devalued and “promises” to deliver the “degrading side of temptation” in the “sinful, obscene and slovenly depravity” one can find at the “lewd, vain, self-imprisoning” vacation experience.
OK, now that’s messed up.
But why? It is almost a confusing concept because on one hand we naturally, as creatures made in the image of God, desire that which seems good and beautiful, yet on the other hand, because we are fallen creatures, we also can be tricked into accepting something that only appears to be so, especially if we think we have found a way that is easier to achieve it. Instant satisfaction is very tempting. Yet when we live a life of faith, praying for strength, clarity and grace to be virtuous, to see evil for what it is, we can see beyond temporal appearances. We become wise enough to know that sin cannot be sugar-coated with enticing promises and rendered virtue any more than chocolate syrup can be poured on excrement and be rendered an ice cream sundae. Well, it’s true.
What is temptation? Temptation is, simply, an incitement to sin. If it were incitement to virtue, we wouldn’t pray not to be led into it. The word “temptation” is from the Latin root word tentare, to try or to test, its meaning deeply rooted in Judaism and the Old Testament beginning with the temptation of Eve and original sin. There is a propensity for evil inherent in us all as a result of original sin, and we will be tested internally and externally. Temptation is not itself however, sin. Unholy images can be strong, transgressing the moral law is easy in weakness, temporary gratification can be so desirable, but as long as there is no consent or deliberate act of the will, there is no sin.
In theory it is possible to be at Temptation Resort and not sin. One may be reminded of the story of St. Thomas Aquinas, who was tempted by a wide variety of antics and assaults from his family to prevent him from becoming a Dominican preacher. When his older brother sent an exclusive temptress to his room to seduce him at age nineteen, after a long solitary incarceration in a fortress, he chased her out with a flaming firebrand and made a sign of the cross on the door with it (do not try this at home). It is said that later in life he revealed that this event was when he begged God to grant him spiritual and physical integrity.
Attack is not surrender. For those trying to diligently serve God, the attacks can seem unrelenting, but temptation can be conquered by humbly distrusting our own power and instead striving for an unbounded confidence in God. Those who find themselves beset with temptation on all fronts can probably consider themselves called to prayer and service even more, possibly to special heights of sanctity. St. Thomas, after all, did become the Angelic Doctor. Most importantly we have the gift of the Immaculate Virgin and the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who shows us what it takes to avoid all temptation absolutely. Our Savior assures us in his Passion that attack is not surrender.
Whatever our vocation, religious or laity, domestic or professional, temptations can be reminders to pray, even if we give in to them — especially if we give into them. As an imperfect mother, I get this.
Whether it’s the guilt that sets in after honking at the sneering kid with the falling-off pants who just waddled in front of your truck because you realize he may not have parents to dress him or drive him around; or the shame you feel for yet again steering your virtuous self through the drive-thru window at Burger King because you’re just too exhausted to heave two frozen pizzas into the oven; or even the internal struggle you have when time does not pass fast enough to 5:00 PM so you can pour that blessed glass of Chardonnay before you return to the dinner/bath/bedtime routine that will undoubtedly push you to behave like a deranged heathen in front of your husband who’s quietly doing all the work while you screech about the lack of civility in the household — all of that knowing there really are starving and suffering people in the world dying while you whine about minutia — there’s always the gift of a prayer to Our Father for renewed graces through the Holy Spirit to try again in the very next second to do better.
Our homes, parishes, and communities where we carry out the duties of our vocations are not Temptation Resorts, nor are they places to escape from daily realities. Rather, they are reality; families are the Domestic Church, we are One Body, and maybe already we even have a taste and peek of the Kingdom of Heaven.
And that is truly good and beautiful, in spite of temptation and our fallen messiness.
Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D. is a wife and mother raising seven children with her husband in Massachusetts who is now also a distance learning student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She is a Chief Editor at VirtuousPla.net and writes about all that she is learning at Accepting Abundance.