"Let nothing afright thee."
In these times of trial, tribulation and temptation we have nothing to fear if we "exhibit ourselves as ministers of God" in all things.
Editor's Note: In Father Louis Campbell's sermon for the First Sunday of Lent, he focuses on the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Temptations constantly pound at our senses and we must have custody of the eyes, ears, mouth and touch in order to avoid falling into sin. Temptation is the theme of this Sunday's liturgy in which Christ was tempted on the mount after 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. The devil chose that time, thinking Jesus would be too weak to resist. So also today the world counts on us being too weak to resist the lure of popularity and things. By playing on our fear of rejection, of "missing out on the brass ring," too often we compromise not only our own situations but the very word of God, molding our own perception into what we want to hear in order for us to be acceptable to man. We want it easy and don't want to take up the sword. 'Peace' we cry, but it will not be found unless we practice virtue and "fight the good fight of the faith" as St. Paul entreats.
The temptations Jesus endured during His forty day fast remind us that there is nothing we have to face that He has not already defeated. He has gone on before us carrying His Cross, marking out a path for us to follow: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Lk.9:23). Thomas À Kempis wrote in his great spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ, about the "Royal Road of the Holy Cross:"
"Behold, in the cross is everything, and upon your dying on the cross everything depends. There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way of the holy cross and daily mortification. Go where you will, seek what you will, you will not find a higher way, nor a less exalted but safer way, than the way of the holy cross" (The Imitation of Christ, Bk.2, Ch.12).
Our cross will often come in the form of persecution. Just as the cowardly devil attacked Jesus after He was weakened by His forty day fast, he attacks the Church at a time when she is weakened by apostasy, scandals, and divisions of all kinds. The secular media, almost entirely under the control of the Church's enemies, see the Church in this weakened condition, and hoping for the final kill, look for every chink in the Church's armor, aiming with their big guns - accusations, lies, and innuendos. The false church survives for a time by cringing and cowering under the attacks, and then puts on a new face, conforming itself to the world's expectations. Traditional Catholics, who want to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and His Gospel, already considered oddities and outcasts, will also be expected to conform, and must prepare to defend their Holy Faith.
We must instead conform ourselves to Jesus Christ. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ," says St. Paul in Romans13:14. St. John tells us: "Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1Jn.2:15,16).
Concupiscence is one of the consequences of Original Sin, a weakness in human nature which makes it vulnerable to temptation. Our friend Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., explains:
"By the concupiscence of the flesh, is meant the love of sensual things, which covets whatever is agreeable to the flesh, and when not curbed, draws the soul into unlawful pleasures." ('Temperance is the mother of purity,' he says, and 'intemperance excites our senses to rebel'). "Concupiscence of the eyes expresses the love of the goods of this world, such as riches, and possessions; these dazzle the eye, and then seduce the heart. Pride of life is that confidence in ourselves, which leads us to be vain and presumptuous, and makes us forget that all we have, our life and every good gift, we have from God" (The Liturgical Year, v.5).
Because Jesus was a Divine Person without sin, He was not afflicted by these weaknesses. Of course the devil didn't know this, because although he suspected that Jesus was a prophet chosen by God, he had no understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, and that Jesus, Son of Mary, was also the Son of God. He dared to tempt the Son of God Himself.
The three temptations of Jesus concern the three weaknesses enumerated by St. John: the concupiscence of the flesh-turning stones into bread; the pride of life-casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple; and the concupiscence of the eyes-the desire to possess all the kingdoms of the world, at the price of bowing down to adore satan. We should note that Jesus defeats the devil by the sword of God's word.
And now we find that it is our turn to endure trial and persecution. St. Paul describes the trial of the Christian in today's Epistle (2Cor.6:1-10), reminding us that "now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation."
Dom Gueranger comments:
"These words of the apostle give us a very different idea of the Christian life from that which our own tepidity suggests. We dare not say that he is wrong, and we are right but we put a strange interpretation upon his words, and we tell both ourselves and those around us that the advice he here gives is not to be taken literally nowadays, and that it was written for those special difficulties of the first age of the Church, when the faithful stood in need of unusual detachment and almost heroism, because they were always in danger of persecution and death. The interpretation is full of that discretion which meets with the applause of our cowardice, and it easily persuades us to be at rest, just as though we had no dangers to fear, and no battle to fight; whereas, we have both: for there is the devil, the world, flesh and blood" (The Liturgical Year, v.5).
With St. Paul then, "Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, to which you have been called, and have made the good confession before many witnesses" (1Tim.6:12), but remember: "Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made Heaven and earth" - Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini; Qui fecit Caelum et terram. (Ps.123:8).
These words of St. Teresa of Avila were found written on the wall of her cell after her death:
Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee;
All things pass; God never changes.
Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
Father Louis J. Campbell
Time of Quadragesima
vol 14, no. 8
"Qui legit, intelligat"
Father Louis Campbell's Sunday Sermons