No one experiencing temptation should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
In today's first reading, Saint James points directly at the anguished reader who, despite his misery, would blame someone else -- anyone else, even God -- for his distress. The Divine Author names desire as the cause of temptation. If I don't want it, I cannot be seduced by it.
Freedom has been loosely defined as the ability to do what I want to do; and we often measure it not by its quality but its quantity. We want more. There are two ways to gain more freedom.
First, I can have more freedom with more power: more money means more financial power. More friends is more social power. More armaments and soldiers is more military power. More knowledge is scientific power. And so forth. In recent times we have directed enormous energy to acquiring more freedom by garnering more power.
A second way to have more freedom is by wanting less. With ten thousand dollars I cannot buy a Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti,, but I can buy an old beater Ford to get me around town. If I am content with a 2005 Ford F-150 for $3,988, I'll be the freest man in North America, with $6,012 to spare.
Even incarcerated people can enjoy immeasurable freedom, like Saint Paul as he cooled his heels in several Roman jails during his travels. If that's where the Holy Spirit wanted him, that was where he wanted to be.
Today is Mardi Gras, we begin Lent tomorrow. How free am I today? How much freer would I be if I wanted less? Our tradition recommends three ready steps toward freedom: alms giving, prayer and fasting.