We promise God that we will be faithful to Him always as we experience His blessings and mercy in the face of all our infidelities to Him. We firmly resolve and plan to avoid a particular sin in our lives. We feel so close to God and then suddenly, “Wham!” Out of the blues we get tempted again and we give in. We experience a humiliating fall despite our good intentions.
We all have been there before. Some of us find ourselves there more often than we want to. Sadly, we tend to focus on the defeats of the present moment to the point of discouragement because we fail to realize that the devil’s temptation is not so much about the present temporary defeats that we experience in the moments of temptations. The ultimate aim of the devil’s temptation is to separate us from God eternally, to keep us from persevering in our journey back to God with confidence. Period.
Let us reflect on the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Was the devil’s ultimate purpose in tempting them to make them sin by disobeying God and eating of the forbidden tree? Not at all. His grand design was that through that fall, through their deliberate act of disobedience, they would find themselves estranged from God and doubting His love for them or their ability to love Him again. The aim of all his temptations is to wound our trusting relationship with God.
The devil’s grand plan had worked well for Adam and Eve. They had received everything from God. The Lord God had “formed man out of clay of the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” The Lord God provided for all their needs too without their asking Him, “He planted a garden in Eden and placed there the man that He had formed…Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food.”
The moment they sinned, they lost that trusting confidence that they had in God to provide for them all their needs and they now began to provide for themselves, “They sewed fig leaves together and made loin cloths for themselves.” They could not imagine God still providing for them after they had broken His only commandment to them. They could not imagine that God could still be a faithful and loving Father after their act of ingratitude and disobedience to Him.
Even the path to the fall began with the devil tempting them to distrust God. He first moved them to doubt God’s truthfulness, “You certainly will not die.” Then he moved them to doubt God’s goodness to them and His power by making them see God as so impotent that He is insecure and competitive with His creatures, “God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods knowing what is good and what is evil.”
The ultimate aim of the devil in tempting Christ is also to derail Him from His journey back to the Father, a journey that would be consummated by His cross and Resurrection. Jesus did not succumb to any of these temptations because He saw Himself as being on a journey back to the Father and the Father would provide for Him all that He needed on this journey, “One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God…You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” He definitely would not give any worship to a creature on His journey home but save His worship for the Father alone, “Get away Satan…The Lord alone shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.” This explains why Peter is also called Satan in Mt 16:23 when he tried to prevent Jesus from His journey back to the Father through the Passion in Jerusalem.
In Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit, we have become children of God and God is drawing us back to Him in and through Jesus Christ, “God’s plan in the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.”(Eph 1:10) In Him, we also have all that we need for this journey back to God despite our repeated failures and our good intentions and resolutions.
Because Jesus never stops drawing us to Himself, we must simply begin again and again when we prove unfaithful to Him in our temptations. We must not give up. Return to the Lord, humbly repent from our sins, learn from our past failures, resolve for the future, and start again. We may lose some individual battles on the way but Jesus assures us that we will ultimately win the war if we do not give up, “Those who persevere till the end will be saved.”(Mt 24:13)
In our moments of failure and discouragement we must remember that Jesus rejoices exultantly along the heavenly cloud of witnesses when we begin again after our spiritual defeats, “There is so much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous person who have no need of repentance.”(Lk 15:7) This same joy of Jesus echoes in us when we choose to restart after our falls, rise and continue our journey with confidence.
The devil on his part is constantly tempting us to quit the journey back home because of our temporary sins and failures. He rejoices when we quit this journey back to God or when we embark on it with regrets about the past and discouragement about the future. This is the ultimate goal of all his temptations that he works through the fallen world and our weak flesh. Our ultimate victory over him is when we persevere and enter into the heavenly kingdom despite the many spiritual battles that we may have lost here on earth.
What the devil did to our First Parents, he is doing to us today — tempting us to be estranged from God by doubting His goodness, truthfulness and power. We are tempted to doubt and question the truths of His word to us today. We ignore His warnings to us and pretend that we can predict beforehand all the consequences of our evil actions. We are tempted to doubt the power of His grace to live truly holy lives in our decadent world. Isn’t this why heterodox and cleverly skewed teaching on sexuality and sanctity of human life are so well received and tolerated today even in the Church? We are futilely trying to provide truth, power, and goodness for ourselves only to find ourselves more pathetic, ashamed, and discouraged in our relationship with God than our leaves-clothed First Parents.
Jesus has been lifted up, on the cross and in glory, and He is fulfilling His promise to us, “And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.”(Jn 12;32) He is indeed always drawing us back to Him no matter the frequency and severeness of our moral and spiritual failures. This is why we have in Him full access to that grace by which we can “resist sin to the point of shedding our blood.”(Heb 12:4)
But if we should still fail Him despite all these graces, we must not linger in defeat and discouragement or wallow in self-pity. But we must rise from our falls and return to Him confidently through the beautiful sacrament of reconciliation where we are forgiven, renewed, drawn deeper into His merciful love for us, and graced for our journey back to God. This is the only way that we can reject the devil’s plan for us and persevere in our journey back into the waiting arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who never ceases drawing us to Himself.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!