Author Archives: stmikeshomily

PERSISTENT PRAYER

17th  SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
CYCLE C
28th JULY 2019
Tony van Vuuren

The Gospel this week tells us a lot about prayer. Be persistent. Ask for what we need. Be assured of the concern of God for us. It does not say: Give it one shot and see what happens.
Between the model of prayer that Abraham provides in his bargaining dialogue with God and the direct advice that Jesus Himself gives us regarding prayer; we need to be centered on the importance of praying every day for our needs and the needs of others. We keep hold of God’s hand through our persistent prayer.
The Our Father prayer is the greatest and most well-known of all Christian prayers. Its short and simple phrases embrace every relationship between us and God. It not only tells us what to pray for, but also how to pray for it. However it so often tends to be said so hurriedly and unthinkingly that much of its meaning is lost. This is a pity; because, properly understood, the Our Father contains a whole programme for Christian living. If we were to live up to what it contains, we would be perfectly in tune with the mind of Christ, because undoubtedly this is how he himself prayed and lived.

The first part deals with God. We begin by acknowledging God’s existence, and calling him “Father”. God is a parent to us, and we are his children. Sometimes he acts like a father and sometimes like a mother!
Then we praise his name; and in praising his name we praise him. We pray for the coming of his kingdom; a kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace. We all have a part to play in making his kingdom a reality.
We pray that his will may be done on earth. “On earth” means in our lives too. God’s will may not always be the easiest thing to do, but it is always the best thing.

The second part deals with us and our needs. We begin by praying for our daily bread. “Bread” stands for all our material and spiritual needs. We may experience a physical hunger, but we can also experience a spiritual hunger. We have a soul as well as a body and sometimes we can experience great emptiness. The soul also needs food to sustain it.
We then pray for forgiveness for our own sins, and for the grace to be able to forgive those who sin against us. Inability to forgive others makes it impossible for us to receive God’s forgiveness.
We pray not to be led into temptation. God does not put temptation in our path, but life does. And we ourselves sometimes walk into temptation of our own accord with our eyes open. We are asking God to help us cope with the temptations that come to us unbidden, and to avoid those of our own choosing. Temptation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a chance for us to prove our loyalty and maturity.

Finally, we pray to be delivered from all evil, both physical and moral. We can’t expect never to encounter evil. God has given us the gift of free will and he respects our freedom; so we can’t be guaranteed a life free from pain and struggle. He didn’t even do that for his son. But there is something God will do. He will help us cope with whatever evil comes our way. We are asking God for the grace to be victorious over all evil, but especially moral evil.
Just something we should take note of; the whole of the Our Father is couched in plural terms. This shows that we are one family under God, and there can be no salvation for us independent of others.
Our best behaviour may not save our part of the world, but it certainly will make for less of the negative drama which each of us is exposed to, tolerates, or even contributes to, each day. The Our Father prayer tells us how to pray, with an emphasis on forgiveness. Our persistent prayer will surely change our hearts and stiffened necks to conform more to this awesome God of ours.

So as we take a breath and disengage a moment from the current news cycle or family need or workplace upset or health issue, let us pray! Let us first return a prayer of thanksgiving to God for being there. Let us call on the Holy Spirit over and over, to be with us, close by, so that our new direction along our journey of faith and hope and love may reflect this awesome God.

No matter what we face in life don’t let go of God’s hand!

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The Most Holy Trinity

Cycle C
16th June 2019
Romans: 5:1-5
Tony van Vuuren

I am not given to telling stories in my sermons, but I was reminded that I was due to preach on the Holy Trinity when I read David Biggs’ Last Laugh column in the Argus last week.

Three farmers were sitting in the local agricultural co-op chatting about this and that, and the talk turned to religion and the merits of various faiths. The oldest was very quiet so he was asked, “so what do you think Oom Hennie?’
“Well there are three roads leading to the grain elevator,” he said, “and when you arrive there, they are not going to ask you which road you came by. They’ll only be interested in the quality of your grain.”

Moving through the three special feasts culminating in the Holy Trinity this weekend we might review what the impact of this period has been on the quality of our faith? On the Ascension we celebrated Jesus’ return to his Father’s side.

Pentecost fulfilled Jesus’ promise that he would not leave us on our own to struggle in a contrary world of rejection and indifference. Today we celebrate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, our belief that God is One and yet Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One in Three and Three in One.

This is something so wonderful and sublime that the human mind cannot pretend to comprehend the full meaning of the mystery, which nonetheless is the cause of our hope as followers of Jesus Christ. Even St Augustine once stated that it is impossible to fill the human mind with the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians begins with a double reassurance. Paul wants to make sure that, as we undergo the daily trials that test our faith, we can be confident that we don’t have to go through them on our own. Jesus is the lens through which Paul interprets the Trinity.

Paul writes; “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s where it begins for us, doesn’t it? It is not about what we did to please God; but that God has first been pleased with us. This love of God; it is not “our love of God” but rather, “God’s love of us.” Paul tells us that through sufferings, endurance, the forming of character and hope, God’s love is poured into our hearts through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
God, in Jesus, has “justified” us. The term “justification” is the Bible’s assurance that we have been put in a right relationship with God. The first effect of justification is the Christian experience of peace. This is a peace that anxieties cannot upset, a hope that knows no disappointment, and a confidence of salvation of which any Christian can truly boast.

So how do we get this “righteousness,” or “justification”? Well, we can never earn it according to Paul. Instead, as he has often said, we are set right with God through faith. But it does not end there, in complacency. Instead, the faith we have received urges us to respond to our neighbour as Jesus did.

God, our Creator, has in Jesus shone the divine face of love and forgiveness on us. He has revealed His unsurpassing, unlimiting and unearned love for us. He has also gifted us with the Spirit, the life force within us, that moves us to accept Jesus into our lives by faith and to respond to the Spirit’s urging to be as Christ was in the world.
All the gifts that we receive from God, be it His grace, faith, hope, peace, justification, they are bestowed upon us through the Blessed Trinity. It is by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus that God manifests His love in us, with us and through us. God’s love for us gives us courage in all the difficulties of life.

We are each being invited to engage more than the mind as we ponder the mystery of our living under the watchful care of the Holy Trinity. St Benedict expressed it beautifully when he said that we are invited to open “the ears of our heart,” in order to comprehend, to the degree that we can, the greatness of our God.
While living this life, we will never understand fully the God who saves us, but that is no reason to give up in our search for God, and our ardent pursuit of God’s will for our life, as well as our proclamation of the Gospel by the life we live.

The Gospel reassures us that God is Love, and whoever lives in love lives in God and God in the one who loves. Let us put God in the centre of our existence and go to Him frequently in prayer, in praise, as well as adoration, supplication, and thanksgiving for giving nourishment and encouragement for our daily existence.

We form a family with God. As the Trinity dwells in unity, we are called to do likewise. May we never cease to thank our God for the gifts we have received and may we remain today and always united to the Holy Trinity, our One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“Love one another even as I have loved you”

5th SUNDAY OF EASTER
CYCLE C
19TH MAY 2019
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

Carrying out this new commandment is the centre of Christian life; the standard and pattern of Jesus’ life has to be the standard and pattern of our lives as well. Love is one of the great preoccupations of life.

Personal relationships, and the warmth and security they provide, are a refuge from an outside world which is in many aspects uncaring and devoid of love. There’s a hint of desperation in the efforts of some people to avoid being left “on their own”, which suggests that there’s an element in our culture which generates loneliness or fails to meet the human need for meaningful companionship and communication with each other.

There are many TV reality shows that illustrate this sad need. The way the Christian gospel understands love, and the way that our society in general understands it, are often two different things. One basic distinction between our Christian outlook and the outlook of non-believers is that along with Christ, and along with all the authors of the Bible, we see God as being the original source of love. Saint John says elsewhere in his Gospel; “God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him”.

Love is not something we create out of the resources of our own human nature. Human nature can be pretty brutal and unloving. The world news is always full of stories that show the depths of loveless behaviour that human beings are capable of sinking to. For us, as believers, love is the spark of divine life in each of us that permeates our whole character and personality and our behaviour more and more deeply. We don’t keep God’s commandments so that he will love us; we do so because He loves us!
To become less self-centred, and to direct ourselves more towards other people and their concerns, is really the main sign of genuine conversion, in our Christian understanding. The main impact God has on us, and the main way that he draws us into his own life, is by way of this conversion. And the person who is genuinely trying to seek God and to be open to God’s influence in their life recognises this.
The second big difference between Christ’s notion of love, and the way our culture understands it, is that for Christ it’s mainly a matter of will, not a matter of feelings or emotions.

Christian love is more to do with a kind of reverence for others as fellow sons and daughters of God and a practical dedication to their welfare as spiritual beings. The ethos of Christian community life takes shape when every individual takes this attitude to everyone else: when each serves the others.

But this takes place in our wills, not in our feelings. Christian love doesn’t mean getting deeply emotionally involved with everyone that we meet. That’s not humanly possible. It’s not what Christ did himself and it’s not what he asks us to do. The effort we make to show concern and to give comfort to people when they’re vulnerable is certainly a way of showing genuine Christian love – but it’s not necessary to link up our own personal emotions with people’s anxiety or their grief. We can identify with people when they’ve suffered a loss, but that’s not the same as actually feeling the loss ourselves.
When people are distressed it’s far more helpful to express sympathy in a down-to-earth way. They don’t need to be bombarded with a lot of gushy stuff about how we’re totally devastated and won’t be able to sleep and how we’ll be worrying about them all week. The main fault of that is that it’s really a form of self-indulgence. It’s not actually directed to the welfare of the other person at all. And as Christians we’re supposed to root out self-indulgent tendencies, not cultivate them.

So if that’s not what Christ’s new commandment is about, may I suggest two simple ways that we can carry out this instruction that Jesus gives us in the gospel today. The first way is to surrender some of our own demands and ambitions about what we want out of life, and attend more to serving other people – not in grand gestures of self-sacrifice, but in small and manageable ways instead.
Maybe being more generous to people with our time and attention. When we do that, all our small actions build up into a habit, and we begin to assume the overall pattern of love and service that Christ puts to his followers as the way of living in communion with God.

Something else we can do, as an act of Christian love, is: we can pray for people. God wants us to turn to him with our own needs as well as with other people’s needs, because he wants us to communicate with him constantly about the plans and activities that we’re involved in.

If we can get into the habit of praying for other people – asking God in ordinary language to make himself present in their lives and help them in whatever way they need – then he also makes himself more present to us, and changes us, at the same time. He makes us gradually more detached from our own wants and desires, he changes our priorities and our sense of what’s important, and he reinforces this whole attitude of concern and service to others.

When we refuse to love, we build a wall around ourselves. But we ourselves are the first to suffer. We condemn ourselves to a winter of loneliness and unhappiness But when we love, the wall falls down. We open ourselves to others. And we ourselves are the first to benefit. We experience a springtime of friendship, goodwill, peace and joy.

“Love one another even as I have loved you.” That sums it all up.

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS

GOOD FRIDAY
19TH APRIL 2019
Rev Tony van Vuuren

From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary always consented with the same obedience of faith, to all the designs of God. Every moment of Her life was an invitation to act on Her faith; and as a fruit of Her obedience, She in turn, deepened Her faith and understanding of Her role and participation in the plan of salvation. That is why we can truly say that Mary had a pilgrimage of faith from the Annunciation to Her Assumption, and that this pilgrimage climaxed on Golgotha.

In these times, marked by a spirit of unbelief, secularization and materialism, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the same faith of Mary’s Heart, so as to be able to stand with Her at the foot of the Cross in fidelity to Her Son and His teachings
To have faith, to believe, has never been easy, since it implies the renunciation of our own thoughts, ways, and wisdom in order to accept the thoughts, ways and wisdom of God, which are infinitely superior to ours. Our Christian perfection depends, on the virtue of faith; our fidelity in times of tribulation, and our perseverance. Paul says: “we walk by faith not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7)

At the moment of the Annunciation, faith became for Mary the only pillar on which to sustain Her whole life and the only way to embrace, not only Her own mystery, but the mystery of Her Son: a gift of mercy from God the Father, for the salvation of all humanity.

St John writes; “Standing at the foot of the Cross of Jesus were his mother and her companions. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple, whom he loved, he said to his mother: ‘Woman, behold your son.’ John exalts Mary’s faith by presenting two elements in reference to the Passion of our Lord: First, Mary’s presence at the foot of the Cross. It is precisely at this place where the faith of the disciples and, logically, Mary’s faith, is put to the hardest test. Her steadfast presence manifests Her fidelity, Her constant abandonment to the will of God, and a faith that is undiminished, unchanged and unaltered even in the darkest hours.
Secondly, in the words of Jesus, “Behold your son,” Mary is invited to expand the horizon of her faith and the understanding of Her role, since Her motherhood is now moving beyond Her dying son; it is been extended to the reality of a spiritual maternity for all the children of God. This last will of Jesus on the Cross became, for Mary, a new annunciation of a conception and birth: The Church.
Mary’s faith was constant, not only present in the times of “apparent glory” when Her Son was performing miracles and had many disciples that believed in Him; it was just as strong when there was no “apparent glory,” and even when there were not that many disciples to believe – except one, the one that was with Her at the foot of the Cross.
The same faith that Mary had at the birth of her Son was the faith she had at the Cross. It had required much faith to have in her arms that defenceless baby, and to put him in the manger and believe in his divinity. It also now required much faith to see Her Son totally disfigured and defenceless on the Cross, waiting for him to be placed in her arms, to then be put in the sepulchre. Her faith gave her strength to continue standing at the foot of the Cross – where nothing seemed to make sense, where darkness seemed to have overcome light, where death seemed to have overcome life, where the messianic power seemed to have been lost, where goodness seemed to have been overcome by evil. There, at the foot of the Cross, Mary stood, supported by John, expressing the hardest thing that could have been expressed at that moment: faith in Jesus Christ, Savior, Messiah, Redeemer. The Son of God.
Mary’s faith is a model for us; we all have our own itinerary and our own journey to travel. It is Mary’s faith that will teach and guide us on this journey through life; to be faithful, undivided, perseverant and trustful in times of glory and in times of suffering.
The story of Holy Week is not simply one of death and destruction. It is more importantly one of hope and of new life. Good Friday makes no sense without Easter Sunday. Mary knows that hope is stronger than despair, love is stronger than hatred and life is stronger than death; and that nothing is impossible with God.
Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is our Spiritual Mother; and a mother always understands her children and consoles them in their troubles. Mary has that specific mission to love us, received from Jesus on the Cross; to love us always, so as to save us. Looking to the example of Mary, may we too unite our sufferings to our Lord, facing them with courage, love, and trust!

PALM SUNDAY

PALM SUNDAY
CYCLE C
14 APRIL 2019.
Homily delivered before the reading of the Passion according to Luke
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

During Holy Week we recall Jesus’ last week on earth and so it opens today as we heard from the Gospel account earlier at the point where Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, welcomed by large crowds of people who have started to identify him as the long-awaited Messiah. But then Luke’s Passion reading will remind us, as Jesus himself warned his disciples, that his mission would not be completed amid popularity and acclaim; the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to reconcile humanity with God.

Palm Sunday isn’t just a commemoration of Jesus’ passion and death: that script belongs particularly to Good Friday, at the end of Holy week.

The Palm Sunday liturgy is more about the movement away from the jubilation and triumph and the popularity Jesus enjoyed among the crowds of ordinary people as he arrived in Jerusalem, to the rejection and hostility he encountered at the end. The character and the message of Palm Sunday is the rapid movement from “Blessings on the King who comes!” to “Away with him! Give us Barabbas! Crucify him!”

Luke describes Jesus’ passion as the ultimate confrontation between the son of God and the forces of evil. It is an opportune time for the devil to attempt to complete the temptation he began in the desert three years ago.

Luke starts his telling of the Passion with an account of the Last Supper which contains some subtle, intimate details. He says, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you.” And as the first Eucharist is celebrated, Jesus uses the words “for you” after the bread and cup are shared, which encourages us to accept Jesus on a personal level.

We will listen as Jesus’ agony in the garden is described in vivid detail, but ultimately we will hear that Jesus accepts his cup of suffering because His one desire is to accomplish His Father’s will and thereby destroy the power of the devil.

In quick succession Luke relates for us how Jesus is arrested, mocked, beaten and questioned, but his messianic strength cannot be overcome. Peter’s denial must be disappointing for Jesus, but when he turns and looks at Peter, we can trust that it is with a look of mercy and forgiveness. Even when he appears to be helpless and defeated Jesus continues to minister powerfully to his disciples.

Jesus is the perfect witness as he testifies to the truth before the chief priests and ultimately before Pilate. He does not refuse the titles “Christ” and “Son of God.” And ultimately seals his own fate by proclaiming that he will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.

Even after he is condemned to death and begins the walk to Golgotha, he stops to comfort some women who are mourning for him. Through unwavering faith and trust in God’s plan, Jesus maintains his union with God and so his ability to still comfort people along the way and despite his agony on the cross comforts and promises eternal life for the repentant criminal.

Jesus begins his passion as he is crucified by uniting himself to the Father in prayer “Father forgive them…”and we hear how he maintains this union to his very last moment. “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Luke’s account has a whole host of characters and so where will we see ourselves among all these people?

What have our past thoughts and actions been regarding the will of the Father?

When have we known the right thing to do but just didn’t do it?

How will reflecting today on Jesus’ Passion and Death and the people he encounters lead us to be strengthened to embrace His Resurrection next weekend?

What darkness holds us back?

How can we change the path we are on to realign it more closely with the will of the Father?

How can we be instrumental in changing our future?

Many questions for us to reflect on as we stand and listen to the Passion of our Lord!

The Prodigal Son

4th Sunday Of Lent
Cycle C
31st March 2019
Tony van Vuuren

Listening to the Gospel, we hear Jesus illustrating to us through the parable, the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation, both on the part of the penitent sinner and of God.  Appropriate then that we are celebrating Laetare Sunday this weekend.

One of the major strands of biblical religion is the conviction of God’s holiness, his perfect love, truth, and justice. Next to the all-holy God we don’t look very impressive, and this aspect of Lent is highlighted mainly in the Old Testament readings on Sundays and weekdays, which concentrate on the occasions that the Chosen People abandoned their faith, and their tendency to wander away from God, only to be called back by him in a series of new beginnings, with expressions of sorrow and remorse on their part, and a constant readiness to forgive on God’s part.

This is the moral of the story Jesus tells in the gospel this Sunday, the parable of the Prodigal Son. People sometimes prefer to see the father as the leading actor in the drama but I would argue that in the context of Lent, at any rate, it’s the delinquent and finally repentant younger Son that should attract our main attention.

Would I be out of line if I suggested that adolescence and youth, in our culture, is often a time of rebellion, of abandoning the beliefs and values learned in childhood, and that when this happens in Christian families it causes great upset to parents, who regard the Christian faith as among the most important things they provide for their children? Obviously there are exceptions to that rule, as to every other. There are of course many families where the children go from youth to adulthood and their faith and their relationship with God simply progresses and grows, apparently without major upset or interruption.

But the general point is still true, I think, and in fact Jesus’ parable implies that it isn’t only something that happens in our modern “un-religious” culture. It was common, or at least unremarkable, even in his day

The Prodigal Son has many of the typical characteristics of youth: he’s egocentric in the normal, carefree, un-malicious way of young people, he’s attracted to a life of pleasure and enjoyment, he feels invincible. And while the sun shines he makes hay. But eventually his circumstances pass out of his own control and his fortunes change. We often need this sort of experience, an experience of failure or suffering, something that makes us aware of our sinfulness and our need to atone for our sinfulness, to know God and grow in our relationship with him.

This is the sort of experience that the Prodigal Son has. The end of his days of wine and roses brings a first of all a spiritual awakening – “he came to his senses,” Jesus says, and secondly it brings a transformation of character: “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you.”He realizes the superficiality and self-centeredness of his former life and starts to learn humility.

Those two elements make up the essence of genuine repentance. First we awaken, sometimes with a great shock, to the extent that our outlook and behaviour has revolved around ourselves.

We realise what an unworthy purpose in life that really is, and we have a powerful sense of our weakness and our capacity for error.

And second, in the light of this awakening, our will, our emotions, our way of thinking – our whole person – is gradually transformed. We turn to God and we rely on him to guide us, rather than on our own judgements or appetites. It has become commonplace for religious people to talk about God’s “unconditional love” for us and to put it forward as Christianity’s great selling-point. But we can talk about “unconditional love” in such a one-sided way that it appears as simply a permission to go on sinning, to live unawakened and untransformed lives.

In the welcome the younger son got, Jesus shows us God’s attitude to repentant sinners. If we are sinners—and who amongst us is not a sinner?—then God loves us not less but more. It doesn’t do us much good to be loved for only being perfect. But it is an extraordinary experience to be loved in one’s sinfulness. Such love is like rain falling on parched ground! One can even build up the courage to start forgiving oneself for an ill spent past.

It is in and through our sins that we experience the goodness and mercy of Christ. If we never sinned, we’d never know his forgiveness. This is not an excuse for sinning. All of us to a greater or lesser extent are in the sandals of the younger son. Which of us can say that we have always been faithful? Do we not at times all squander God’s grace and misuse his gifts? Which of us would like to be treated by God only according to strict justice? Do we not all need more mercy than justice? God’s forgiveness is not a cold, half hearted forgiveness, but a warm and generous one. The story doesn’t give us a license to sin. But it does show that if, through human weakness or wickedness, we do sin, then we can come back. Our past can be overcome. We can make a fresh start.

This is the great lesson of the parable!

Into Battle

1stSunday Of Lent
Cycle C
10TH March 2019
Dcn Tony van Vuuren

We celebrate this weekend the first Sunday in Lent, the Church’s main penitential season. Jesus withdraws into the desert to fight and conquer his temptations and to place himself completely at the disposal of God his Father. The Gospel account uses images to show how Jesus was challenged to remain faithful to his heavenly Father. We have the same temptations.

The temptations faced by Jesus were real. This was no play acting. But the question arises: Can a good and virtuous person be tempted like the rest of us? The truth is: the good and virtuous person who resists temptation knows more about the power of temptation and evil than the weakling who submits at the very onset of temptation.

Those of us who give in too easily to temptation know little about the struggle involved. Those who struggle with temptation and overcome it know it best. There’s that old adage; If you want to know what victory over temptation costs, don’t ask a sinner; ask a saint.

What did temptation mean for Jesus? It meant the same as it meant for Adam and Eve and it means the same as it means for us. It means choosing between good and evil; between doing God’s will and one’s own will.

The fact that Jesus, “led by the Spirit” Luke  says, deliberately placed himself in an environment where the temptations lurking within himself were brought to the surface and where – by giving himself over totally to God’s guidance and putting his life totally at God’s disposal – they were confronted and defeated.

The temptation Jesus had to face was the temptation to go about his mission, but in the wrong spirit, using the wrong methods or tactics.

It was Jesus’ task, as Messiah, to reveal God and God’s character more completely than ever before. So what the devil tries to do is to persuade Jesus to turn away from the true character of God’s Reign and to conduct his mission with worldly tactics, to impress people with spectacular miracles, to submit to Satan in order to dominate the world politically, to use his spiritual power or his close relationship with God to produce purely earthly commodities – “if you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf”.

And his tempting was not a once-off event. He was tempted right throughout his life; even when on the cross. Jesus’ victory in the desert was not the winning of the war, but merely the winning of a battle.

Since even Jesus and the saints were tempted we can’t hope to escape it. All of us are intrinsically weak and prone to temptation. This may be a disturbing truth, but it is one we ignore at our own peril. The great problem of our time is our failure to know ourselves, to recognise temptation and evil and deal with it within ourselves. We have to struggle against the evil that is in others and in society. But our hardest struggle is against the temptation that originates inside us. We are born with conflicting impulses, so that doing good is always possible, but never easy. The hardest victory of all is over oneself.

This struggle, with its inevitable falls and failures, is not something to be ashamed of. Our struggle is not never to fall, but to fall, to rise, and go on in spite of everything. Temptation is not necessarily a bad thing. By forcing us to choose good over evil makes us strong. Every time one is tempted to do evil, but makes a decision to do good, makes one stronger. Suffering and struggle can make us stronger. (As difficult as that is to accept at the time!)

Furthermore, how could we prove our fidelity if there was no temptation? There wouldn’t be any particular credit in remaining virtuous through lack of temptation. Virtue would become meaningless if there was no evil, no struggle. Virtue involves a choice between good and evil. That choice can sometimes be very difficult, and there is no definite victory. The battle against evil is never over as long as we live. However, each right choice makes the next right choice easier.

But we might still say, “It was easier for Jesus!” As well as a divine nature, he also had a human nature. It wasn’t any easier for him. Besides; temptation in itself is not a sin. He too had to struggle to do the will of God. His victory in the desert was not easy. It was achieved through prayer, fasting, and reflection on and obedience to the word of God. The Holy Spirit was with Jesus during his struggle.

The Holy Spirit is with us too when we find ourselves in the wilderness; in our spiritual desert. It is a great consolation to have the faith to believe and know that God is not outside our struggle, but with us during our struggle.

St Augustine wrote and prayed: “It is through temptation that we come to know ourselves. God grant that I may know you, and grant that I may know myself.”