Why do some people avoid sins that I so easily commit? Why do any of us fall prey to temptations that others say no to without a struggle?
In the reading (1 John 2:29 — 3:6) points out that those who belong to God base their actions on righteousness, and those who don’t know him choose lifestyles of sin.
How well do you and I really know God? Consider the sins you’ve already overcome. How did you stop being vulnerable to this particular temptation? If you remember it well enough to analyze it, you’ll notice that you learned something about God that rendered the temptation powerless.
For example, many years ago I knew a Catholic prayer group leader who was actively involved in witchcraft. Since she did not give me the opportunity to help her see the error of her ways, I was tempted to strangle her with her rosary beads. Whenever I saw her, I did not remain in God; my thoughts did not stay pure and I did not behave like a child begotten of the Father.
Then at a Catholic Charismatic conference, which we both attended, I finally heard God reminding me that he loves her. And if he loves her, so should I, for a child learns by imitating the parent.
I ran to Confession for the grace that God would provide through this Sacrament, the supernatural help that would empower me to love her. The priest gave me an easy penance, but I felt God giving me an additional penance: “The next time you see her, give her a hug and tell her that you love her.” My knee-jerk reaction: “What? Are You nuts, God?” (Knee-jerk reactions mean that we’re a jerk when we should be on our knees in prayer.)
Reluctantly, I promised to obey. I spent the rest of the weekend looking for her. Oddly, I never saw her again. All God had wanted from me was my willingness to love her regardless of her sins. Since then, it’s been a lot easier for me to resist this same temptation, not just with her, but with others, too, who are difficult to love.
We will never fully know God on this side of the gate to heaven. When we sin despite a genuine desire to be holy, it’s because there’s something we still need to learn about how good God is and how helpful he wants to be.
Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.” The more we know what God is really like, the more we understand what’s holy and what’s sinful, and the more horrified we feel about doing a sin. Temptations become powerless.
In the Gospel passage (John 1:29-34), John the Baptizer describes how he came to know that Jesus is the Son of God. The same thing happens to us. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to see and recognize Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowers us with understanding so that we can imitate Jesus. The Holy Spirit enables us to behave as true children of the Father.