I enjoy reading the Magnificat each month. One of the parts I enjoy reading are the brief commentaries on the psalms in the daily morning and evening prayers. Last month, one of these commentaries struck me. It said, “Pride sets subtle snares. Whenever we imagine that we are in control of life—our own or someone else’s—we have fallen prey to the ancient whisper in the Garden: ‘You shall be like gods.’ Mortality is the enduring reminder that we become like God not by our own power but by the power of the cross.”
Many of the sins that we fall into have at their root some form of pride: that it’s all about us and what we want—all that matters are our own desires, wants, pleasures, and needs. We subtly forget about both God and our neighbor. We can easily fall into this pride as easily as we step on a rock. We want to believe it takes stepping across the Grand Canyon but in reality, sin is much subtler. Temptation can be almost imperceptible when we aren’t paying attention.
Sometimes people ask me why they seem strong in resisting temptation after the Sacrament of Confession or a retreat or other spiritual exercise. They might be good for a while and then fall back into the old habits of temptation and sin. It is that old whisper in the Garden. We imagine that we are in control of our lives but, in reality, God is in control. He’s the one that we should rely on to guide us and tell us what to do. When we put ourselves in control we are bound to fail and fall back into our old ways. Therefore, we must pray at all times, both in temptation and outside of it. We can never become complacent in fighting against evil or in seeking God in all things.
As the Magnificat commentary states: “we become like God not by our power but by the power of the cross.” During this season of Lent, we have many opportunities to reflect on the cross, the instrument of our salvation. One of my favorite Latin sayings is “Ave, O Crux, Spes Unica!” — “Hail, O Cross, Our Only Hope!” We cannot save ourselves and we already have a savior, Jesus Christ, who won for us our salvation on the cross. By uniting ourselves closer and closer to Jesus and letting God have control, we become more the person we were created to be. In the end, I am reminded of the beginning of a prayer by St. Basil of Caesarea: Steer the ship of my life, Lord, to your quiet harbor, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict.