419 8-17-20 20th WOT Mt 19:16-22
Recently I have been reading St. Thomas Aquinas and studying his theologies, noting the word concupiscence. St. James’ teaching in chapter 1:14-15 is that the source of temptation is to be found in our own passions.
Elsewhere he says that the world (cf. 1:27; 4:4) and the devil (4:7) are causes of temptation; but to actually commit sin the complicity of one’s own evil inclinations is always necessary.
Concupiscence (“desire”), here as elsewhere in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Rom 1:24; 7:7ff; 1Jn 2:16), means all the disordered passions and appetites which, as a result of original sin, have a place in our hearts.
Concupiscence as such is not a sin; but rather, according to the Council of Trent, “since it is left to provide a trail, it has no power to injure those who do not consent and who, by the grace of Jesus Christ, truly resist”; and if it is sometimes called sin (cf. Rom 6:12ff) of is “only because it is from sin and inclines to sin”.
Using the simile of generation St. James describes the course of sin from the stage of temptation to that of the death of the soul. When one gives in to the seduction of concupiscence sin is committed; this in turn leads to spiritual death, to the soul’s losing the life of grace. This is the opposite process to the one described earlier (cf. vv. 2-12), which begins with trials and ends up in heaven; whereas in this passage, the process also begins with temptation but because of sin ends up with the death of the soul. St. John Paul the great describes the process as follows:
“We also know, through painful experience, that by a conscious and free act of our will we can change course and go in a direction opposed to God’s will, separating oneself from God, rejecting loving communion with him detaching our self from the life – principle which God is, and consequently choosing death”.
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When evil days are upon us and the worker of malice gains power, we must attend to our own souls and seek to know the ways of the Lord intimately. In those times reverential fear and perseverance will sustain our faith, and we will find need of forbearance and self – restraint as well. Provided that we hold fast to these virtues and look to the Lord, then Wisdom, Understanding, knowledge and insight will make joyous company with them for us.