Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Plants by God - by MICHELANGELO Buonarroti - from Cappella Sistina, Vatican
We call God "Father" because He created us -
and created us in a special way, in His own Image and Likeness.
The Our Father
Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
Pater Noster, qui es in caelis,
Our Flesh continually reminds us of Physical Pleasure, and it always seeks its own Gratification. We commonly identify Sins of the Flesh as Lust, or some over-indulgence in Food, Drink, or something else that is Good or Necessary. But our Flesh exerts another Temptation as well, and that is the urge to turn away from a Spiritual Good. This can be as simple as choosing Time on the Internet over Time for Prayer, but however when this Temptation manifests itself it prevents us from pursuing what will Nourish, Refresh, and Restore our Spirit. Saint Paul summed up this Tension when he Lamented,
Other Temptations assail us from outside us; our Flesh is a part of us, and we must always respond to its Legitimate Claims. The Challenge for Christians is to distinguish between the Needs of the Flesh and its Wants. We must grant the One, while keeping in Mind that our Bodies must never stand in the way of our Soul's Everlasting Happiness.
Sources of Temptation: the Devil
The Devil deceives us by Confusing the Appearance of Good and Evil, and - once we have succumbed to Sin - by suggesting Excuses for continuing to Sin. Saint Thomas Aquinas was a superb Psychologist. He realized we Naturally shrink-from Evil that we recognize as Evil. A far more subtle challenge is to avoid an Evil that appears - if only temporarily - as Good. We encounter Temptation in this Guise every day, with Minor or more Serious effects. For example, when we must choose between Wasting Time and using it more Profitably, when we are urged to spend more than we can afford for a product that promises marginally better results than a Competing Good, or when we are urged to overlook some Flawed aspect of a Political Candidateís Platform because the rest is so attractive. Virtues and Vices are both Habits, and each becomes easier with Practice. "Even Satan disguises himself as an Angel of Light" (2Corinthians 11:14), and if we wish to avoid finding ourselves enmeshed in an Unprofitable, Sinful Habit, we must be careful to avoid taking the risky "first steps" that may seem to be no Sin at all.
Defense against Temptation
Temptation is a fact of Christian Life - the Gospel relates that even Jesus was Tempted - and Prayer is the First Defense against it. In the Lordís Prayer we beg, "lead us not into temptation". Here we should consider that we do not ask God to remove Temptation from our Lives, which would be Unreasonable. Rather, we ask for the Strength to resist Temptation, as Christ did, and our Prayer for this Resistance becomes one more way to identify our Trials with Our Saviorís.
Common Sense suggests another Practical Defense against Temptation, which is to 'Avoid' the Situations or Individuals that encourage us to do Wrong. These "Occasions of Sin" are the Moral Equivalent of Physical Danger. Our Physical Lives are subject to all sorts of Risks; if we are Wise, we Minimize our Exposure to them. It is the same with our Moral Lives. We cannot avoid Temptation altogether, but we can reduce its Threat by not putting ourselves in its way.
A Call to Look Within
Temptation is never a pleasant topic, but it is fairly easy to consider so long as we view it solely as a Force Acting upon us. However, as we Reflect on our Moral Lives with others we must acknowledge an additional Danger, and that is our own Capacity to be a Temptation. Anyone who looks at the Newspapers in the Grocery Store has grown numb to the word "Scandal". What may surprise us is that Scandal has little to do with the Misbehavior of Celebrities. In our Moral Theology, Scandal means leading another Person into Sin.
The Virtue of Charity calls us to wish anotherís Good, and the Greatest Good we can wish is anotherís Salvation. To lead another Person into Sin is the most serious Sin against the Virtue of Charity, so it is the worst Sin we can commit. The Temporal Consequences of Christian Discipleship may be Painful, for we are beset by all sorts of Inconvenience and Tribulation. But these are nothing compared to the Punishment we will Suffer if we Trip Another - and this is what the word "Scandal" means - whom we ought to be Supporting on our Pilgrim Journey to Salvation.
Conclusion of Our Prayer: Deliverance
Throughout the Lordís Prayer we ask God to Forgive the Sins we have committed in the Past, to form us in His Image so we may be Signs of His Goodness in the Present, and to help us avoid committing Sin in the Future. As the Lordís Prayer draws to its close we also ask God to Save us from the General Ills that beset us, namely the Trials and Afflictions that are a part of our everyday-life in the World.
God may occasionally Intervene Directly in our Lives, to preserve us from some Accident or Illness, but experience teaches us that these are Rare - indeed, Miraculous - Events. Godís Support is generally more Subtle, and we experience it in a variety of on-going ways that bring us Abiding Solace every day.
Comfort in Suffering
Our word "Comfort" comes from the Latin Word, fors, which means "Strength". As we approach the great Feast of Pentecost, we will often hear the Holy Spirit described as our " Comforter". We may be inclined to think of Godís Spirit as something that makes us Warm, but the Spiritís True Mission is to make us Strong, especially when Trial or Adversity weakens our Faith.
Reward in Affliction
When we undergo them - and in this regard we may reasonably think of the many Challenges we face in these uncertain Economic Times - Trials are Unpleasant, and we may find little in them that is Redemptive. When we ask God to Deliver us from Evil, we seek His Gift of 'Insight' that allows us to place our Trials in Perspective - at the very least, to see them as Temporary. Our Prayer may not altogether Relieve our Anxiety, but it may allow us to see our Suffering in the Larger Context of a Weakness that Afflicts the entire Body of Christ as a result of Sin.
Patience in Trial
Here we must repeat that the Lordís Prayer does not ask God to Deliver us from Trial, which is a Natural Part of our Life, but from Sin. When faced with Temptation or Trial - and especially if we succumb to Sin - we experience Sadness, which Blinds us to Reason. Saint Augustine teaches that Patience is the Virtue without being Disturbed by Sorrow, lest he Abandon with an unequal Mind the Goods whereby he may advance to Better Things.
The Beatitude of Peace
Patience allows us to see Godís Love and Goodness in-spite-of the Trials that beset us, and to Temper by Reason the Joys that often threaten to overwhelm us. To the extent we cultivate the Equilibrium of Patience, we approach the Tranquility that is Godís Gift of Peace. The Blessing promised Peacemakers is to be called Godís children, which is nothing less than to be like God. Just as nothing can Harm God, so those who are Patient can rise to the Challenges of Prosperity or Adversity, Joy or Sorrow.