As Christian-Catholics we are taught early on that we must always be charitable, in our thoughts, words and actions. We do this by placing love in action and concretely putting the good of others ahead of ourselves.
We live in a world rampant with temptation and sin. In our effort to avoid temptation and sin it may be necessary to take on such a powerful stance against evil that we risk appearing rude. When Christ asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he didn’t mean we should avoid being rude to do so. In fact, it is a great act of charity to be a witness to others in this regard.
When we refuse to compromise our convictions we are showing love. Love for God and others. Our actions should be communicating this message:
“I love you too much to allow or to accept this harmful act or invitation.”
Our motivation to avoid temptation and occasions of sin is out of love for God and out of love for the soul of the other.
Christ did not compromise nor did he think twice about calling out evil where he saw it. He called it out whether the evil manifested itself among the Pharisees, the merchants in the temple or even among his friends. When Peter denounced Christ’s foretelling of his suffering and death, Jesus didn’t soften his response because Peter was a friend.
“Get behind me Satan…” Matthew 16:23
Jesus calls out the evil he recognizes. He knows the tempter is using Peter to inspire doubt and fear in God’s plan for Christ’s suffering and death. He risks appearing rude to call out the tempter and stop Peter from accepting this line of thinking which is contrary to God’s plan. We are called to imitate Christ. Through Christ we have this same authority to call out evil.
We have all faced moments of temptation, an offer to indulge in some pleasurable, illicit or inappropriate act or exchange. Satan puts out his net through a seemingly harmless invitation to some act of pleasure. It may be a simple comment, conversation or invitation that we derive some sort of effortless pleasure from. An act that we can easily dismiss the potential harm it will cause. Even if we acknowledge the invitation is inappropriate and may lead to sin, we may be more concerned about appearing rude for refusing the invitation than we are about the consequences of accepting such an invitation. By accepting the invitation we allow Satan to expand the net.
If we refuse the invitation or walk away from the situation, act or conversation by utilizing the courage and authority given to us through Christ, we to are saying like Christ, “Get behind me Satan…“ and instead of expanding his net, Satan`s attempt is stifled.
Perhaps our greatest challenge is what we read in the Gospel of Mark 8:11 – 26, where Jesus warns his disciples:
“…keep your eyes open and guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.“
Just as we forget that Christ can work through others for our good, we forget that Satan can work through others for our ruin. Jesus points out to the disciples that the Pharisees refusal to accept his divinity and his teachings and Herod`s pursuit of pleasure are the invitations to sin they need to be guarded against. Like the disciples we don`t understand Christ`s warning. Our understanding is very limited. Jesus says to us:
“Do you have eyes but cannot see and ears but do not hear?”
It is only in Christ that we will be able to recognize evil and perceive the potential dangers. The Holy Spirit will inspire in us the holy daring necessary to stifle Satan’s efforts to entrap us.
Christ desires to open the eyes and ears of our heart. He invites us to bring others to him who also need their spiritual eyes and ears opened. In this same Gospel of Mark we read of a blind man being led by the hand to Christ. It is an act of kindness, an act of charity to bring those who are spiritually blind or spiritually deaf to Christ. We may not be able to take them to Christ physically, though we may attempt to invite them to prayer, or to Mass, etc., However, we can bring them to Christ in our own prayer for them and we can aid in opening their eyes and ears when we refuse to give into the smallest act of temptation.
If Christ did not point out Peter’s statement was coming from Satan, would Peter have recognized it? Would the other disciples have known? Would we who read this passage thousands of years later recognized the tempter in Peter’s comments? Probably not. In this same way, we are called to stay close to Christ and to call out evil where see it, for the good of our soul and the good others.