Time of Grace (2016)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 14th February 2016
Bernhard, a low rank factory clerk, took an envelope which contained his moderate monthly salary from the hands of his superior and thanking him put it in his pocket. A few minutes later he sat again at his table among his fellow clerks. From expression of his face they could estimate that he was in a bad mood.
The others could take it easy. They could afford all kinds of things. But what could Bernhard buy for 160 German Marks? Although he tightened his belt, all his money went on rent, food, some clothes, the railway ticket and insurance; there was nothing left for any entertainment.
He was the youngest one in the office. But did he not fulfil his duty like all the others? Did he not work as long and as reliably as any of the many who shared this room with him? And didn´t Dr. Vogel, his direct superior, praise him and express his appreciation many times?
“Continue like this, Bernhard, and you won't have to worry about your future“, he had once said to him. This was an important encouragement for the twenty-year-old man. But again several months had passed by and nothing had happened. First of all his salary hasn´t increased!
Before he put his pay packet into his locker, he controlled the bank-notes. There had to be eight of them, eight twenty-Mark notes like the ones which he has been bringing home for months at the end of a busy month. But he felt nine notes in his hand. Very nervously he took them out and counted them over again. Indeed, there were nine of them. But originally there were only 160 Marks on the pay packet.
His thoughts went head over heels. He would finally be able to buy a camera or to undertake a mountain trip with his friends thanks to this extra money. But he immediately turned back to reality. “I have to stay honest“, he told himself. “I will bring back the money to the pay office which surely made a mistake.“ He went to see Dr. Vogel who did not even seem to be surprised but listened to him with satisfaction. He put aside the 20-Mark note which Bernhard handed him over with the remark that the pay office obviously had made a mistake by paying him 180 Marks instead of 160.
In a friendly, paternal manner Dr. Vogel asked him: “Would you like to exchange your job in the bookkeeping department for one in the central pay office? They lack personnel and I recommended you in our last meeting. Your salary will, of course, be increased; as far as I know the salary for this job is 220 Marks. How about that? It took Bernhard a little while before he understood but then he agreed with enthusiasm.
Whenever God leads someone into temptation, He will scrutinize him like Dr. Vogel did with his subordinate Bernhard or like a teacher does with a student. God wants to show us the way, He wants to purify us, He wants us to make progress.
We must recognize the evidence. That is the way we are, with all our good but also our bad qualities. We should be aware of this. Everything else would be an illusion, would be a lie.
God also wants to purify us from fallacies and from disordered self-love.
And finally God wants us to make progress, he wants to entrust us with more important tasks.
Whenever the Devil and nasty people lead us into temptation, they have different aims in mind. They do not want to show us the evidence, they do not want to purify us from our sins, they do not want us to make progress but they want to lead us away from God.
In today´s Holy Gospel it is said: Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Ghost in order to be tempted by the Devil. This temptation makes both different aims clear to us. The Holy Ghost wants to reveal Jesus´s virtues to us, the Devil wants to lead him into temptation.
When we say the prayer Our Father and pray “do not lead us into temptation“, we do not pray that he might preserve us from any temptation but that he might preserve us from any situation in which we might agree to a sin. But he has to lead us into temptation in order to put us to the test.
How do we have to deal with temptations?
- We must pray that we will not be led into that temptation to which we will agree.
- We have to avoid occasions which might lead to a sin. There are situations in life which lead us to a sin more easily than other situations. An alcoholic for example must not go to a bar as he knows very well that if he goes there, he will give in and get drunk.
Someone else must not go to certain bookshops if he knows that he will not be able to resist buying a bad book or a bad movie.
We are only allowed to expose ourselves to temptation for serious reasons! Such a reason would be saving somebody´s life, for example. A doctor, due to his profession, has to deal with sexual matters, even if he knows that he might weaken.
- In many situations we can ward off temptations, otherwise they would even get stronger.
This applies mainly to temptations in thought against God, against our fellow men, against purity. Such thoughts are, for example, rebellion against God, blasphemy, feelings of hate or thirst for revenge against our fellow men or unchaste desires which we might have without wanting them.
If such thoughts arise in situations with which they don't have anything to do at all, they come from the Devil. For example if somebody has unchaste thoughts or bad desires in church, although he had committed the deed years ago and was forgiven it. These kinds of thoughts come from the Devil.
In general – at times when we are not tempted – we must pray for God's love, for charity and for purity.
- We must have great trust in God. God will not have us suffering from temptation greater than we are able to bear. God will also make an issue with every temptation. (1 Cor 10:13)
- Prayer and fasting are very helpful. Our Saviour himself had told his Apostles that there are kinds of devils which can go out by nothing but by prayer and fasting. (Mk 9:28)
Lent is a time of grace. The Church again and again recommends three good works for this time:
Prayer, fasting and alms. When praying we give God our spiritual goods, when fastening our corporal goods and when giving alms our exterior goods.
In religious life – in a state of perfection – these goods will be strengthened by the three monastic vows: obedience, by which the member of the order renounces to his spiritual goods, chastity, by which he renounces to his corporal goods, and poverty, by which he renounces to his exterior goods.
Let us make a special sacrifice during the coming Lent: fasting or just drinking water and eating bread one day per week, an additional catechism lecture, going totally without chocolate, without television and internet one day per week, visiting a cemetery. Standing an annoying person which you have to deal with etc. Make a firm resolution which can be applied to your life and which makes sense. For a non-smoker it does not make sense to renounce cigarettes.
By all these voluntary sacrifices our will is going to be strengthened, we will be kept from temptations and we will be brought nearer to heaven.