An Arsenal for Overcoming Temptation (Part 2)

7. “I am too weak to be a saint.”

“And what might appear astonishing, but is however very true, is that our miseries entitle us to God’s mercy.” – Bl. Dom Columba Marmion

As Jesus revealed to Sr. Consolata Betrone, the weaker we are, the more right we have to count on God’s strength. Some of the greatest saints and mystics were chosen by God precisely because they were weak! St. Margaret Mary, Sr. Josefa Menendez and St. Faustina, for example, were each chosen by God so that God might demonstrate through them that he desires love and humility, rather than strength or even perfection. Sr. Josefa said that it matters very little how much progress we make in the spiritual life, provided that we persevere. Little Therese of Lisieux reminds us that even Jesus fell three times under the weight of the Cross, so we should not be surprised when we fall. Instead, we should humble ourselves and consider ourselves lucky that we have a “ticket” (our weakness) to God’s arms.

8. “I fear the uncertainty of salvation.”

“Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ.” (CCC #1023)

“Perfect charity casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

Salvation is morally assured. We have an infallible promise from God that whoever dies in a state of grace- which is offered to all through prayer and the holy Sacraments- is saved. The more we love God, the more we will be delivered- and seek to be delivered- from our sinful habits. A very clear sign of God’s grace is the sincere desire to love Him and do everything for love of Him.

The more we meditate on God’s immense love for us, the more we will grow in confidence that our salvation is a gift that God wants to give us, and which we can be sure to attain if we seek to love God above all else. Jesus revealed to Sr. Consolata Betrone that souls such as these (who long to love God above all else) are given Heaven not only out of God’s mercy, but out of His justice! Why? On one level, it is because God is true to His promises.

Let’s not forget that Jesus died for us in order to save us. He does not desire the death of the wicked. Our confidence in God should ALWAYS be based upon His nature, not ours; God is unchanging love, mercy and truth. We can never exhaust or fathom God’s love:

“I love men so much! … I love poor sinners so much!” – Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero

“To give God a chance to exercise His mercy by our repentance and confidence causes Him joy. Nothing wounds His Heart so much as a lack of trust.” (p. 199).-Bl. Dina Belanger

*The best response to this temptation is blind trust, because ultimately, it is Jesus who saves us, and His action within our soul is hindered by our distrust. It is when we remain united to Him and trust in Him, that He is able to fulfil His great plans for us. If you struggle with fears about your salvation (all of which are in vain), may I suggest reading prayerfully some of my earlier posts about God’s love and mercy? Furthermore, read a good spiritual book, such as ‘Love, Peace and Joy’ by Andre Prevot, ‘Jesus Appeals to the World’ by Fr. Lorenzo Sales, or ‘Consoling the Heart of Jesus’ by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

9. “I struggle constantly with the same sin.”

“Without Me you can do nothing.” – Jesus

We cannot overcome sin by ourselves. We must humble ourselves and have recourse to God immediately in every temptation. This pleases God. We can be sure that God will reward our perseverance with eventual success, keeping in mind that “Love is sanctity” (Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone). God values humility (a necessary virtue for our salvation*) so highly that we will often struggle with a particular sin until we have learnt humility.

For how to overcome particular temptations, I suggest reading the book ‘Voice of the Saints’ by Francis W. Johnston. The saints tell us, for example, that in order to overcome impurity, we MUST ask God for this grace, and we must fast. St. Philip Neri says the following (not found in the book, however):

“Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Virgin are not simply the best way, but in fact the only way to keep purity. At the age of twenty, nothing but Communion can keep one’s heart pure . . . Chastity is not possible without the Eucharist.”
– St. Philip Neri

* At least, insofar as it is necessary to acknowledge our unworthiness before God and therefore ask for His mercy.

God bless you!

An Arsenal for Overcoming Temptation (Part 1)

“The truth will set you free.” – Jesus (John 8:32)

Considering the important truths outlined in the previous post, as well as Church teaching, the words of saints and Our Lord, let’s see how we can overcome various temptations- at least in part (God’s grace is necessary for us to overcome any temptation; neither understanding nor passion alone is enough to overcome sin and error).

After each temptation is a quote that refutes it. I will also provide an explanation with the help of other references.

1. “God is indifferent to my needs.”

“Each soul is a matchless treasure to Me.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of Trinity

Do you truly know what you need? Only God knows what is best for us, therefore we can know with certainty that whatever befalls us is ordained by God, so we can (and should!) accept with gratitude everything that happens to us in life. God desires our salvation first and foremost. He knows each one of us intimately and He desires our love. His words, “I thirst”, relate to each one of us. God knows that our salvation is the most (and only truly) important thing that we can attain. Everything else is transitory. Consider how blind and ungrateful we are when we complain to God about this and that, when everything God allows (or directly wills) is for our eternal benefit! We need to shift our focus to eternal life and God’s eternal love, lest we be overcome by the vicissitudes of this earthly exile.

God obviously also knows that the merit we gain on Earth will be enjoyed by us in Heaven for all eternity. St. Catherine of Genoa could not emphasise more strongly the immense rewards that we will experience in Heaven for our every sacrifice, every illness beared patiently, every suffering “offered up”, every act of humility etc. A book I strongly recommend, which implicitly deals with this particular temptation very thoroughly and practically is ‘Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence’ (written by two very holy men, including St. Claude, who was the confessor to St. Margaret Mary).

2. “God cannot still love me.”

“Yes, I love all souls… My love NEVER changes… I yearn for souls… I thirst for them.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

God does not- and indeed cannot- stop loving the souls He created out of and for love. Even while were sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Whatever we have done, God’s nature remains unchanged and unaffected. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

3. “My sins are too grave to be forgiven.”

“The mercy of My Heart is inexhaustible.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

God’s love and mercy is infinite/inexhaustible and unchanging; it cannot possibly be exhausted by any human iniquity (Council of Trent). This means that God’s mercy is always available to us; always infinitely greater- and therefore capable of and willing to annihilate/forget- our sins, whatever they may be. This temptation suggests the impossible: that we could exhaust God’s mercy. Succumbing to such a temptation- particularly out of pride, rather than ignorance- has the ability to lead us to despair (the total and wilful abandonment of hope), which has the potential to make us so blind and hardened that we become ‘unforgivable’ i.e. only when our despair becomes final/absolute (because we lose the ability to- and therefore never will- acknowledge or accept the graces that lead us to repentance). Final impenitence is always found in such souls (God can “overcome” a hard heart, but it is much more difficult- if not impossible- to overcome a hard and blind heart!) Jesus said to Sr. Consolata Betrone that final impenitence is only found in those souls who “purposely wish to be damned and therefore obstinately refuse [His] mercy.” Jesus has made it clear through His Holy Church that we can always accept forgiveness in this life, no matter how great our guilt (“Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them…” – John 20:23). “Sooner would Heaven and Earth turn to nothingness than would My mercy fail to embrace a trusting soul.” (Jesus to St. Faustina) In other words, it is impossible for God to refuse His mercy to those who trust in Him, provided that they have the right dispositions, of course (which are solely the affect of God’s grace!).

Jesus’ words must always be understood within the context of his other words (as understood by His Church). If Jesus were to say, for example, that “presumption is unforgivable,” He would obviously not be imposing a limit on His mercy; He could not be saying that He will refuse mercy to those who repent of this sin (especially considering that repentance is a grace from God); rather, Our “all-merciful” Lord would be warning us that we can become so stubborn and impenitent that He is unable to help us, as He cannot force His mercy on us. Only those who “absolutely will it” are lost (Jesus to Sr. Benigna), “… for terrible is the condition of an impenitent heart… I [Jesus] cannot penetrate it. It is not I who condemn it; [the soul] wilfully repels Me.” (Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity).

St. John Vianney reminds despairing souls in particular- although these words apply to all souls- that God is as eager to forgive the repentant than is a mother to rescue her child from a fire!

(*Read some of my earlier articles/posts, which deal with this temptation at least implicitly. The post named “The SEEMINGLY unforgivable sin” deals explicitly with this topic. St. John Vianney’s Catechism on hope is very helpful and has been included- in part- in an earlier post).

4. “After I have sinned, I lose the confidence to approach God.”

“… because the divine nature is passionless, God never punishes nor takes vengeance with wrath, but with tender care and much lovingkindness. So we must be of much good courage and trust in the power of repentance. God does not punish for His own sake even those who have sinned against Him, for nothing can harm that divine nature.” – St. John Chrysostom

God is always the same: love and mercy. His mercy and love always pour forth in the Sacraments. We simply have to receive them with the right dispositions. Even without the Sacraments, God is still more than willing to give us His grace. He is bound to His Sacraments, but He is not bound by them (St. Thomas Aquinas).

4. “Jesus only died for some.”

“[Jesus] gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:6)

Not all souls will accept the free gift of God’s love (it is in this sense that Christ only died for some or many).

5. “My past sins haunt me.”

“… let us have no doubt about the solemn pardon pronounced over our errors. Let us place a tombstone over them just as the Lord has done.” – St. Padre Pio

Listen to the advice of the holy confessors St. Padre Pio and St. John Vianney, who were both known to spend over 15 hours a day in the confessional. Each of these holy men tell us that after we have been absolved, we must no longer dwell on our past sins. St. John Vianney admonishes those who dwell on sins which have been absolved, reminding us that we have no right to think about what God has chosen to forgive and forget.

6. “My past is so sinful that I get discouraged.”

“Never consider your past sins except in the light of infinite mercy, so that the memory of them may not discourage you, but may lead you to place your confidence in the infinite value of the Saviour’s merits.” – St. Catherine of Siena

When we consider that no one can approach Jesus unless the Heavenly Father draws Him (John 6:44), and that, when we repent, Jesus casts our sins “… as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalms 103:12), rather than being discouraged by our sinful past we should be immensely encouraged! Why? Because the fact that Our Heavenly Father has drawn us to His loving Heart for forgiveness- especially when our sins are grave and shameful- is clear evidence that He still loves us very dearly and wishes to use us in His plan of redemption (He does not simply forgive us and leave us be; He uses us in His vineyard)! Thus, whenever we are tempted to dwell on our sinful past we should remember that: a.) Our sins have been forgiven and forgotten b.) It was Our Heavenly Father who drew us to His Divine Son for pardon. Why does God wish to pardon us? For our own sake- because He loves us, and wants to love us more. Sin hinders God from pouring out the immensity of His graces into our souls, in the same way that our parents are unable to embrace us when we turns our backs on them. What pleases God is when we let Him embrace us, which is what happens most intimately in Holy Communion.

There is much more consolation to be derived from meditation on this quote from St. Catherine, but I will leave it to you and God.

 

A Powerful Shield Against Discouragement

 Jesus said to Sr. Mary of the Trinity: “The greatest gift you can make Me is to receive Me.”

In order to understand the immensely consoling, encouraging and important implications of this statement, we must first understand a few theological principles:

– God’s nature/essence is love. “His mercy endureth forever.” (Psalm 100:5). He therefore has an infinite desire to love (to will the good of the other) and be loved; His Sacred Heart beats with tender compassion and pity for His poor creatures (who He created out of and for love) who He always desires to help.

– As the perfect lover, God always desires our ultimate good; God orients everything in our lives towards this good, which is our salvation. Furthermore, God desires the ultimate good of every individual (“… that all men be saved”), which means that God requires saints (souls aren’t converted without the sacrifice, humility and holiness of “chosen souls”).

– Our sanctity is God’s delight (as He said to both Bl. Dina and St. Faustina). Simply put, isn’t sainthood about accepting God’s merciful love and letting it transform us? (Temptation is certainly necessary for reaching the heights of sanctity).

– Repentance, the desire to love God (which is love), and every other virtue are all graces from God (“Everything is grace” – Little Therese of Lisieux).

– We cannot create love; we can only transmit it. So, in order to love God, we must first receive His love.

– We can do nothing without God (except sin, ultimately).

– God works all things to good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28), and He uses everything for our salvation; such as “sickness, scruples and contradictions” – St. Alphonsus (who was no stranger to these things). There is nothing that God cannot draw good from, provided that we submit it to His omnipotent love with humility, confidence and love. Surely there can be no greater evil than putting Jesus (God) to death, yet from this act God brought our salvation. In fact, Our Lord revealed to Sr. Josefa Menendez and Sr. Benigna Consolata that He can draw an immense good from sin when we repent of it with the right dispositions (for more on this topic- and others- I STRONGLY recommend the book ‘Words of Love’ by Bartholomew Gottemoller, as well as ‘The life of Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero’).

When we consider these principles it becomes clear that we please God most when we love Him, and when we let Him love us. This requires that we come to God humbly- as empty vessels- ready to be filled with His love, which is inexhaustible and open to all. Any barrier to receiving God’s love is always on our side. God’s love and mercy flow forth endlessly from His Sacred Heart as from a fountain (cf. St. Cyprian and St. Faustina), and “… the Door of [God’s] mercy is NEVER closed.” (Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero).

When we consider that “God’s mercy is as boundless as His power” (St. Frances of Rome), we begin to see that every fall, every sin, and every weakness contains a remedy, because God’s love and power never change; they will always remain infinite!

Now, reconsider the words of Our Lord to Sr. Mary of the Trinity: “The greatest gift you can make Me is to receive Me.” These words are immensely (and particularly) helpful against any temptation to discouragement or distrust, which always involve some degree of turning “inwards” or away from God’s love.