Over the past few weeks, we’ve been considering the sources of temptations and how to overcome them. We complete the series today by pondering how to flee temptations coming to us from the world.
As we saw earlier, when we speak of “the world” in the context of temptations, we don’t mean the created world. Everything God created is good if used correctly. The problem is, when we lost our proper relationship with God in Adam’s sin, we also lost our proper relationship with one another and with creation. “The world” is the society that delights in pleasure more than it delights in God. The world entices us to join in the “fun.”
The world values pleasure, power, violence, wealth, fame, and comfort. It does not stop at tempting us. When we resist, it mocks and persecutes us. The world cannot stand to be rejected, having the fury of the proverbial scorned woman.
The world exalts the lowest things to the highest stature. Its motto is “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” It uses crude, vulgar, and blasphemous language without a second thought. It enshrines these values in book, magazines, TV, and movies. Ancient Rome’s coliseums and circuses exemplified the depths the world can sink to.
How can lay people flee from the world?
We may not be able to avoid the flesh and the Devil, but we can avoid the world to some extent. Traditionally, Christians who wished to flee from the world would enter a cloistered monastery or convent. Free of the world’s influence, they could more easily pursue God.
But God does not call most people to the cloister. At the same time, He calls all of us to be holy. So how can we flee from the world and still live in society?
Just as in fighting the temptations of the flesh, the best defense against the world is avoiding the near occasion of sin. We need to recognize that everyone is prone to different types of sin. Activities our brothers or friends might be able to enjoy innocently may pose a problem for us, and vice-versa.
Each temperament is tempted in different ways. Cholerics are particularly tempted towards power and fame. Sanguines are tempted to follow the crowd, wherever it leads. They love to be trendy and fashionable. Phlegmatics hate conflict so much that they might unwillingly join others in sin rather than speak up for the truth. Melancholics are the most retiring of the four temperaments. They are most comfortable at home by themselves. But one way in which a worldly spirit can affect them is in exulting work above God’s will. They are often reluctant to observe proper rest on Sundays and holy days, or to spend time building relationships with family members.
Build up your faith
Fleeing from the world starts with fleeing from its mindset. St. Paul writes:
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
We renew our minds by reading the Bible and the lives of the saints and meditating on them.We should look for other Catholics who will support and encourage us, and avoid worldly company as much as possible.
“This is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith” (1 John 5:4). We should know the teachings of the Church and understand them at an adult level. We must be able to defend the faith when challenged, for someday our lives may depend on it. More likely, our children or our own hearts will challenge us.
Humility, simplicity, a well-regulated life, and faithfulness in prayer will help us resist the world’s enticement. So will service to the poor and outcasts. We can build a Christian culture within our homes and among our friends and relatives. Above all, we must always put God and His will first.