In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave us "a mandate" to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world."
By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Dec 10, 2010)
Some years ago, a priest told me that as long as I live on this earth, I will be tempted. He said there was no one that he knew of that wasn't tempted; we cannot be entirely without temptation. At the time I thought, "That sounds pretty discouraging. I sure hope he's wrong." And you know what? He was right!
In my own life, I have prayed many times like Paul did in 2 Corinthians, when he wrote, "Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness'" (7-10).
Oh, so many times I have asked the Lord to remove my weaknesses. And they still persist! And I realize that I fall because I do not rely totally on Him and His grace. Yet these weaknesses serve a good purpose, for they keep me humble. And, as the Lord told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
My power is made perfect in WEAKNESS! Yes, our faults provide an avenue for further spiritual growth. They keep us humble, and allow our hearts to be more open to being examples of love and kindness. I suspect all the saints before us have dealt with temptation and have had to face them and not run away from them.
Did you ever wonder why many alcohol and drug-rehabilitation counselors are addicts themselves? It is because they realize their weaknesses and want to help others. They have a certain empathy that people without an addictive disorder could never understand. And it allows them to focus on their own weaknesses daily and stay close to the truth about themselves. We, too, must stay close to truth itself, Jesus Christ, and be humble like Him if we are to grow spiritually. And we must never deal in an unloving and harsh way to others being tempted; you should treat them gently as you would want them to comfort and treat you.
And, yes, years later I continue on, having better days than others. I still fall back into my old ways and habits. And after falling, I continually beat myself up mentally, almost to the point of exhaustion. I focus on thoughts like "How could I?" and "Why did I do such a thing?" and "What a loser I am!"
All the guilt, shame, and self-doubt enters my mind, and I become so deeply troubled that I wonder if God could ever forgive such a miserable soul. Yet, I find comfort in the words our Lord spoke to St. Faustina, "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 723). And then the doubts reenter my mind, and I continue to wonder if Jesus could forgive me for my sins, the same ones I repeat over and over. For in spite of my efforts, I fall again and again into the same faults.
All of us have been born with a self-centered desire to be somebody, to be successful, to taste the pleasures the world has to offer — and all this clashes with a desire to stay close to God. At least, that is my interior struggle — to walk away from all that the world has to offer and cling to Jesus. For we must build up treasures in heaven, as these are the kind that don't rust or wear out.
For me, when being tempted, the beginning of the end is when my mind is not fixed firmly on the Lord. The enemy is more easily overcome if he is not allowed to enter my mind, but if so, I must pray and drive him out at the beginning. There's an old saying, "resist the temptation at the beginning, otherwise the remedy arrives too late." For after the evil thought enters, then a more vivid picture develops, then humanly pleasure comes into play, then my concession, and finally acceptance of the whole process. And it is in these difficult times that spiritual progress, no matter how small or insignificant, is made. It is no great deal if a person is holy and pious when all is well; it is in the times of testing by fire that the iron is molded and melted into shape.
We must offer all our trials and temptations up to God, thanking Him for His endless mercy. And if we fall, let us return to the Fount of Mercy, Jesus Christ, asking for mercy. Let us try to understand in a deeper way that His love and mercy for us is greater than our darkest sins. Let us realize that Jesus died for each one of us! His love was so great that He was beaten, covered with blood and mud on the road to Calvary, and died for us on the cross. And while reflecting on His five wounds, let us never lose hope and say today with great confidence, "Jesus, I Trust in You!"
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Learn how to start a Divine Mercy prayer cenacle in your area.