Consolation During Temptation

These excerpts, taken from The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales: For Lent, discuss temptation as an inevitable part of following Christ. However, St. Francis de Sales admonishes us to have confidence in God for we have been given all we need to overcome temptation. With the armor of truth and faith we can rise victorious even in the face of the most fearsome temptations.

All Must Face Temptation

This is an admonition of the Sage: “My son, if you intend to serve God, prepare your soul for temptation,” for it is an infallible truth that no one is exempt from temptation when he has truly resolved to serve God. This being the case, Our Lord Himself chose to be subjected to temptation in order to show us how we ought to resist it. Thus the Evangelists tell us: He was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted. [Matt. 4:1; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:1].

In the first place, I note that although no one can be ex­empt from temptation, still no one should seek it or go of his own accord to the place where it may be found, for undoubtedly he who loves it will perish in it. [Ecclus. (Sirach) 3:27]. That is why the Evangelist says that Our Lord was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted; it was not then by His choice (I am speaking with regard to His human nature) that He went to the place of temptation, but He was led by the obedience He owed to His heavenly Father. 

Do Not Fear 

If we are led by the Spirit of God to the place of tempta­tion, we should not fear, but should be assured that He will render us victorious. [1 Cor. 10:13]. But we must not seek temptation nor go out to allure it, however holy and generous we may think ourselves to be, for we are not more valiant than David, nor than our Divine Master Himself, who did not choose to seek it. Our enemy is like a chained dog; if we do not approach, it will do us no harm, even though it tries to frighten us by barking at us. But wait a little, I pray you, and see how certain it is that no one who comes to serve God can avoid temptations.

Be Prepared

Thus, it is a very necessary practice to prepare our soul for temptation. That is, wherever we may be and however perfect we may be, we must rest assured that temptation will attack us. Hence, we ought to be so disposed and to provide ourselves with the weapons necessary to fight valiantly in order to carry off the victory, since the crown is only for the combatants and conquerors. [2 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 1:12]. We ought never to trust in our own strength or in our courage and go out to seek temptation, thinking to confound it; but if in that place where the Spirit of God has led us we en­counter it, we must remain firm in the confidence which we ought to have that He will strengthen us against the at­tacks of our enemy, however furious they may be. 

Weapons Against Temptation

Let us proceed and consider a little the weapons which Our Lord made use of to repulse the devil that came to tempt Him in the desert. They were none other, my dear friends, than those the Psalmist speaks of in the Psalm we recite every day at Compline: ”Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi ” [“Who dwells in the aid of the Most High”]. [Ps. 90 (91)]. From this Psalm we learn an admirable doctrine. He speaks in this manner as though addressing Christians or someone in par­ticular: “Oh how happy you are, you who are armed with the truth of God, for it will serve you as a shield against the arrows of your enemies and will make you victorious. Therefore, do not fear, O blessed souls, you who are armed with this armor of truth. Fear neither the terrors of the night, for you will not stumble into them; nor the arrows that fly in the air by day, for arrows will not be able to injure you; nor the business that roams in the night; much less the devil that advances and reveals himself at noon.”

The Power of Our Faith

O how divinely well armed with truth was Our Lord and Master, for He was truth itself. [Jn. 14:6]. This truth of which the Psalmist speaks is nothing other than faith. [1 Thess. 5:8]. Whoever is armed with faith need fear nothing; this is the only armor necessary to repel and confound our enemy; for what can harm him who says Credo, “I believe” in God, who is our Father, and our Father Almighty? In saying these words we show that we do not trust in our own strength and that it is only in the strength of God, “the Father Al­mighty,” that we undertake the combat, that we hope for vic­tory. [Ps. 17 (18):30; 43 (44):6-7; Heb. 11:33-34; 1 Jn. 5:4]. No, let us not go on our own to meet temptation by any presumption of spirit, but only rebuff it when God permits it to attack us and seek us out where we are, as it did Our Lord in the desert. By using the words of Holy Scripture our dear Master overcame all the temptations the enemy presented to Him. 

Be Courageous

Ah, fear nothing, I pray you, since you are encompassed with the armor of truth and of faith. [Eph. 6:11-16]. Rise from your bed, indolent one, for it is time [Cf. Prov. 6:9; Rom. 13:11], and do not be frightened by the day’s work, for it is natural that the night is given for rest and the day following for work. Rise, for mercy’s sake, from your cow­ardice, and keep clearly before your mind this infallible truth: all must be tempted, all must keep readied for combat in order to win the victory. Since temptation has a remarkable power over us when it finds us idle, let us work and not grow weary, for we do not wish to lose the eternal rest which has been prepared for us as reward for our labors. Let us trust in God who is our “Father Almighty.” By virtue of this fact all things will be rendered easy, although at first they may frighten us a little.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales: For Lent by St. Francis de Sales which is available from TAN Books



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