Sunday, May 29, 2011

Overcoming Temptation - Love vs. Fear

As I was preparing for confession recently, I was pondering why I struggle with particular sins. After all, as we heard in today’s Gospel reading (Jn 14:15-21), we show our love for our Lord by keeping His commandments. As Christians, whilst we certainly do love our Lord, we would all readily admit that we do not love Him nearly as much as we should.

So, if our love for Jesus leads to keeping His commandments; what is it that keeps us from obeying them? The obvious answer is “the opposite of love, of course”. But, what is the opposite of love? Our first inclination is to say that hate is the opposite of love, but this really isn’t true because our struggle with sin is not because we HATE the Lord.

Someone once said that the opposite of love is not hate; rather, it is fear. The all-encompassing message of our Lord Jesus Christ was “love”. His mission was driven by the love of the Father for the world (Jn 3:16), and by His own love for His friends (Jn 15:13). Yet in His preaching, Jesus often had to tell His disciples “Do not be afraid...”. That is why St. John says that perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18).

And this is what struck me during my preparation for confession. The times that I overcome my temptations to sin is when I completely entrust myself to God’s care. But, when I rely on my own strength that is when I fall. I also find that at times I fall because I am apprehensive to ask God for His help because I am afraid that I will still fall and thus make mockery of asking God for His help. This is when I realised that those times when I rely on my own strength, it is because I am practising the opposite of love. The times that I am afraid to lovingly and wholeheartedly trust the Lord are the times that I fall.

So, if we want to grow in our obedience to the Lord Jesus, we must let go of our fears, and entrust ourselves in full confidence to His love for us. He has promised that when we approach Him seeking help to overcome our temptations that He will give us the grace that we need (Heb 4:16).

And for those times that we still fail...well, thanks be to God, He is always ready to receive us with the words “Do not be afraid...”. That is one reason why I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation so much. When we confess our sins to the priest, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, acting through the priest, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we have made a good confession, and have a firm purpose to amend our live, we can rest assured that in the absolution pronounced by the priest, our sins are most certainly forgiven (Jn 20:23; 1 Jn 1:9).

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