Monday, April 4, 2011

1st Sunday of Lent

Wow! I can believe its been so long! Hopefully in the next few days I will post the rest of my homilies since back in September. Here is my last homily from a few weeks ago.
We have all heard that a journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step, what we are never told is the large amount of preparation that happens before taking that first step. I bring this up because as members of the Church of Christ, the season of lent is one of preparation, preparation for our own "Journey of a 1000 Miles" which starts Holy Thursday and ends Easter morning. And for people who profess love for our Lord, this three day journey should be a grueling one. It is a journey in which we accompany Jesus as he gives himself to us in the Eucharist on Holy Thursday only to be paid by betrayal, and, abandonment on holy Friday. It is a journey in which we become silent witnesses as we see him, scourged, humiliated, tortured and finally nailed to a cross and left to die like a common criminal; all because of our own personal sins. This is a trip that should not be taken lightly. How am I going to get ready? What do I need to do to be prepared to experience these days?
The church as the good mother she is, calls us to a 40 day period of preparation for what lays ahead. First with the ashes of penance to remind us of our own mortality, and in this first Sunday of lent, by calling us to meditate on the things we need to take care, the things we need to fix in our lives to approach these days with the solemnity they deserve. And there is no better way to do this than looking at one of the most basic experiences of our fallen human nature, at the one thing we can all relate, the one thing we all experience day after day: temptation.
In today’s first reading we see clearly what effects temptation can have when we give away to our selfish desires and disobey God’s commands. But it is in the Gospel where we truly learn what temptation is and how it presents onto us. When Satan asks Jesus to change the rocks into bread, our Lord is suffering the lowest and most basic level of temptation: Temptations of the flesh. We know this type very well, we see it, almost every time we watch TV commercials, or look at advertisements. We are tested in this way every time someone or something caters to our most basic desires, our most basic animal instincts, hunger, lust, the desire for comfort and luxury.
The second type of temptation Jesus experiences are what I call Temptations of the Mind. Satan says “If you are the son of God throw yourself down and the angels will catch you”. These types of temptations address our self image; they take our basic human need to be recognized and loved, and turn it into a need to show “how much better we are than others”. These are the temptations we suffer when we feel the need to show others that we are smarter, bigger, faster, or that we have more money, a better car or a bigger house, and when we fall to these we commit acts of pride which is the source of all other sins.
Lastly Satan tested Jesus with what I call a Temptation of the Soul “I will give you all this if you worship me” These are the temptations we suffer at the core of our beings, the ones that cause the sins that can enslave us because we take the divine light that is in our souls, since our baptism and suffocate it with own selfish desires. Pornography, adultery, alcoholism, they take God out of the center of our lives and replace him with our own selfish pleasures. They make us stop worshiping the creator and start worshiping the creature.
My brothers and sisters, like the good Lord in the Gospel reading, we are all tempted. But unlike him, we have all fallen to our own selfish desires. And in this first Sunday of Lent, the church invites us to confront this reality so that we can begin to heal the devastating effects of sin, so that we can get ready for the journey ahead.
There is one temptation I have not mentioned, the temptation to think that God will not forgive us, that our sins are so embarrassing, so terrible that we are ashamed of thinking about them and even worst to speak them out loud. But this is precisely what we need to do, we need to confront our failures and speak them at loud, only them can we start the process taking away the power our sins have gained over us.
I think that this temptation is at the core of all the people that refuse, delay or just plain ignore the sacrament of reconciliation. People that think that they can confess to God on their own, or that refuse to confess because “they do not know what to say” or even worst that they do not need to be reconciled to God because they are “good people”; all of them fooling themselves because at the end of the day we are all tempted and we all fall. And if you do not know where to start, how about confessing those temptations that make you struggle?
In this Lenten season, why not approach this great sacrament? Every Wednesday night from 7 to 8:30, the light will be on for you, Father Mike will be here, waiting to hear your confessions and on April 13 at 7:30 we will have a number of priests for our annual Lenten Penance Service. I invite you to take advantage of these opportunities during this period of preparation for the Easter Tridum and to not delay on receiving the mercy of God which is waiting for you in this most precious Sacrament, so you too can be ready for the journey ahead. Amen